Federal Employees Brace for Higher Health Insurance Premiums

Press Release September 26, 2018

Washington D.C. – Health insurance premiums, already a significant monthly bill for federal employees, will increase an average 1.5 percent next year and further reduce the take-home pay of the men and women of the civil service.

The Office of Personnel Management announced the higher rates for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program on Wednesday.

“The average increase for 2019 may be smaller than in recent years but health care costs, including premiums, copays and co-insurance, continue a steady climb. FEHBP enrollees can only absorb so much particularly given limited pay increases over the past few years and the administration’s call for a pay freeze in 2019,” said National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon.

According to information provided by OPM, the government’s contribution to FEHBP plans will increase an average of 1.2 percent, for an overall average increase of 1.3 percent.

“We intend to caution our members that the 1.5 percent increase is an average, and that employees and retirees enrolled in some local health insurance plans may see major spikes of 8 percent or more,” Reardon said. The OPM data shows employees in local health plans will see average increases of 7.9 percent to 11.9 percent.

Open enrollment for the FEHBP runs Nov. 12 through Dec. 10. The program covers 8.3 million federal employees, retirees and eligible family members.

Being able to choose from several affordable, quality health insurance plans is exceedingly important to federal employees, and NTEU remains concerned about efforts by some in Congress and the administration to scale back employee benefit programs or dismantle FEHBP.

Instead, NTEU will continue to urge Congress to find other ways to control enrollee health care costs, such as reforms to the prescription drug programs.

In recent weeks, Congress has acted on prescription-drug related pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) legislation that would provide consumers with more transparency, and at times, cheaper options at the pharmacy counter.

PBMs operate as middlemen to negotiate prescription drug prices with drug companies and pharmacies on behalf of individual FEHBP plans, though in recent years there has been little evidence it has reduced costs for enrollees.

NTEU believes that OPM should take steps to ensure measures such as this legislation are extended to FEHBP plans, which would provide some opportunity for minimal savings for federal employees. 

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.