Missing out on health plan


Q: I have worked for the DHS for a little more than four years, and have four years of military time which I bought back. I am 59 years old and would like to retire sometime around 62. I have been in one of the health care plans, but would like to use it when I retire.  My wife had a cheaper plan where she worked, so I never switched over. When I was hired, I was never told of the need to be in the plan for five years before I retired. Why would this have any affect on me enrolling in the future? I have saved the government money by not being in the plan. They have had to spend zero on me for health care, but someone who has used the health care for five years would then be eligible at 62 to keep it. Please tell me how this makes any sense? If I had been told when I was hired I would have chosen the health-care option. If I retire at 62, my wife would like to retire also, and we can’t get into her health-care plan when we retire. How would saving the government money affect my ability to get into the system? We had been in her plan for a number of years, and hated to switch when I got hired. Can you give me some guidance on this issue, or who I can contact?

A: By law, you would have to be enrolled in an FEHB plan for five years or from your first opportunity to enroll to carry that coverage into retirement. In your case, your first opportunity to enroll was when you were hired by the federal government. There are only two exceptions to this rule. First, if you can prove that you were prevented by circumstances beyond your control from enrolling in the FEHB, which is an exceedingly difficult standard to meet, since ignorance of the law is no excuse. Second, if you were enrolled in an FEHB plan, were eligible to retire – in your case, age 62 with five years of service – and your agency offered you an opportunity to retire early.


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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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