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Proposed Rule

Changes in Health Benefits Enrollment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Office of Personnel Management.

ACTION:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing proposed regulations on changes in health benefits enrollment for annuitants or survivor annuitants when a carrier terminates participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. We are proposing to amend the regulations to give OPM the authority to enroll annuitants in whichever option of the BC/BS Service Benefit Plan it determines will most closely approximate the terminated plan.

DATES:

OPM must receive comments on or before April 9, 2004.

ADDRESSES:

Send written comments to Abby L. Block, Deputy Associate Director for Employee and Family Support Policy, Strategic Human Resources Policy Division, Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20415-3666; or deliver to OPM, Room 3400, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC; or FAX to (202) 606-0633.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Nataya Battle, (202) 606-1874, or e-mail to nbattle@opm.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Effective August 18, 1997, OPM amended 5 CFR 890.306(l)(4) to authorize OPM to enroll an annuitant in the standard option of the Service Benefit Plan when the annuitants' health plan terminates participation in whole or in part in the FEHB Program and the annuitant fails to elect to change to another participating health plan. At that time, the BC/BS Service Benefit Plan offered the high option and the standard option. The standard option was the lower level of benefits with a lower premium cost. Beginning with the January 1, 2002 contract year, the BC/BS Service Benefit Plan merged the high option coverage into the standard option coverage and added a basic option. The standard option is now the highest level of coverage offered with the more costly premium rate.

In the existing regulation, an annuitant who does not elect to change health plans is deemed to have enrolled in the standard option, or if the plan he or she was enrolled in had two options, he or she is deemed to have enrolled in the same option previously enrolled in (either high or low), if the annuity is sufficient to pay the high option premium. The annuitant may not change to another health plan until the next open season.

The more costly premium rate may not be affordable for many annuitants. Amending this regulation will allow OPM the flexibility to consider the premium rate and the benefits that the annuitant was receiving under his or her terminated health plan, and enroll the annuitant in the option of the BC/BS Service Benefit Plan that most closely approximates the terminated plan. In addition, this amendment will give the annuitant the opportunity to change the option or to change to another health plan of his or her choice within 60 days of the date OPM sent notification that he or she has been deemed enrolled in a particular option of the BC/BS Service Benefit Plan.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

OPM has determined that this regulation will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because the regulation will only affect health benefits of certain Federal retirees.

Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Review

This rule has been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget in accordance with Executive Order 12866.

Federalism

We have examined this rule in accordance with Executive Order 13132, Federalism, and have determined that this rule will not have any negative impact on the rights, roles, and responsibilities of State, local, or Tribal governments.

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List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 890

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Office of Personnel Management.

Kay Coles James,

Director.

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Accordingly, OPM is proposing to amend 5 CFR part 890 as follows:

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PART 890—FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HEALTH BENEFITS PROGRAM

1. The authority citation for part 890 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 8913; § 890.803 also issued under 50 U.S.C. 403p, 22 U.S.C. 4069c and 4069c-1; subpart L also issued under sec. 599C of Pub. L. 101-513, 104 Stat. 2064, as amended; § 890.102 also issued under sections 11202(f), 11232(e), 11246 (b) and (c) of Pub. L. 105-33, 111 Stat. 251; and section 721 of Pub. L. 105-261, 112 Stat. 2061.

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2. In § 890.306 revise paragraphs (l)(4)(ii), (l)(4)(iv) and (q)(1)(ii) to read as follows:

When can annuitants or survivor annuitants change enrollment or reenroll and what are the effective dates?
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(l) * * *

(4) * * *

(ii) If a plan discontinues all of its existing options, an annuitant who does not change the enrollment is deemed to have enrolled in the option of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan that OPM determines most closely approximates the terminated plan.

* * * * *

(iv) After an involuntary enrollment under paragraph (l)(4)(ii) or (iii) of this section becomes effective, the annuitant may change the enrollment to the other option of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan or to another health plan of his or her choice retroactively within 60 days after OPM advises the annuitant of the new enrollment;

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(q) * * *

(1) * * *

(ii) Enroll in any plan in which the annuitant's share of the premium is less Start Printed Page 5936than the amount of annuity. If the annuitant elects to change to a lower cost enrollment, the change takes effect immediately upon loss of coverage under the prior enrollment. The exemptions from debt collection procedures that are provided under § 831.1305(d)(2) and § 845.205(d)(2) of this chapter apply to elections under this paragraph (q)(1)(ii).

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[FR Doc. 04-2666 Filed 2-6-04; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6325-50-P