The Biden administration and the U.S. Postal Service have released the first information about the upcoming transfer of the Postal Agency’s 600,000 employees to its own benefits system, though so far few details have emerged.
The Office of Personnel Management, in conjunction with the USPS, released preliminary answers to frequently asked questions about the new health care market on Monday. Both agencies are to implement the Postal Service Health Benefits program by the end of 2024, with employees, retirees and family members transitioning to it by January 1, 2025. People who receive insurance disease through the USPS currently do so through the same program that serves all federal governments. employees and retirees. Congress demanded the changes as part of the Postal Service Reform Act that President Biden signed into law earlier this year.
The Postal Service’s health benefits program will operate as part of the federal employee health benefits program, but will include plans that only serve postal workers, pensioners and their family members. The new guidelines define these categories of eligibility and ensure that these people do not have to take immediate action to maintain their health insurance coverage. Current and former postal employees will continue to participate in FEHB for 2022, 2023 and 2024, but will re-elect in the postal specific program at the end of 2024 during the “open season” period.
“OPM and the Postal Service will continue to provide updates through the 2024 PSHB opening season to help ensure a smooth transition for all eligible employees and annuitants,” the agencies said.
Other benefit programs will continue to operate as they have even after the transition to the post-specific healthcare network, including dental and vision insurance, flexible spending plans, life insurance group and long-term care insurance. FEHB participants who fail to select a new plan in 2024 will be automatically enrolled in a national offer to be determined. By law, the USPS must implement an education program to help employees and retirees navigate the new system and make decisions that are right for their health care needs.
The law requires that the OPM and USPS make every effort to ensure that any FEHB plan that has at least 1,500 postal participants is included in the specific postal market. It will also maintain the same coverage and cost sharing, the exact rates of which are determined by collective agreements. The FAQ did not address the other major health benefit change included in the reform law, which will shift most retirees to Medicare for their primary health insurance.
The Postal Service has reached out to some of its employee groups about the transition, though not everyone has heard from management. Brian Renfroe, executive vice president of the National Association of Letters Carriers, said the USPS “regularly engages” with the union regarding its discussions with the OPM about upcoming changes.
“NALC will continue to meet regularly with the Postal Service on this matter,” Renfroe said.
Ivan Butts, president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, said he had asked the USPS to create a task force to allow stakeholders to participate in the process leading to the program’s launch in January 2025, but that he had not yet received an answer. The National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees, which played a key role in crafting some of the health care provisions in the reform law, also said it had not yet engaged with the postal service.
“We are monitoring its rollout to ensure our members stay informed about their health care,” said Ross Apter, director of legislative and policy affairs at NARFE.