'Working' or 'not working'?


Q. As a currently “working”  federal employee with Federal Employees Health Benefits, soon to receive Medicare and Tricare for Life, how can FEHB be eliminated from the three insurances but be reobtainable should there be a lapse in Medicare or TFL?

The situation is simple for a federal employee going into retirement: Fill out form 79-9 electing to suspend FEHB for Medicare and TFL.

Is there a form or path to do the same if a federal employee continues to “work” and wants to eliminate FEHB coverage?

I am told, if “working,” an employee must cancel FEHB. It would be retainable during a future open season. The problem is this is done over the telephone without any written documentation such as a form 79-9 for a retired worker suspending his FEHB. Is it this confusing?

I have called the Office of Personnel Management, the Army Benefits Center, my local human resources office, Medicare and TFL. They either don’t know the answer or don’t  feel obligated to impart any guidance for fear of giving misleading information. Can you shed some clear guidance on my question? I am aware that, to have TFL, one must be military retired and Medicare Part B must be purchased.

What is the order of precedence with FEHB, Medicare and TFL? I am told the following:

If working: FEHB, Medicare then TFL.

If retired: Medicare, FEHB then TFL

Of course, with FEHB not in the equation, it would be only Medicare and TFL in either case, working or retired.

A. According to OPM, “Employees may not suspend their coverage. However, they can cancel their coverage to use CHAMPVA, Tricare or Tricare for Life. Employees who do not participate in premium conversion may cancel their enrollment at any time. For employees who participate in premium conversion, eligibility for CHAMPVA or Tricare is not a qualifying life event that would allow them to cancel their FEHB enrollment. These employees may cancel during any annual FEHB open season. If an employee who canceled FEHB coverage to use CHAMPVA, Tricare or Tricare for Life decides to return to FEHB coverage, the employee can do so during a future open season. If the employee loses CHAMPVA, Tricare or Tricare for Life coverage involuntarily, the employee can immediately re-enroll in the FEHB program.”


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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