Health Insurance

OPM taps insurance carriers to service new USPS benefits exchange

US Postal Service employees and their dependents now know the health insurance that will be available to them next year as part of a new exchange.

Office of Personnel Management officials said on March 12 that the agency had conditionally approved 32 carrier applications to provide insurance coverage on the new Postal Service Health Benefits Program, with the plans servicing 1.9 million USPS employees, annuitants and eligible family members starting Jan. 1.

The PSHB, established by the 2022 Postal Service Reform Act, provides USPS employees, retirees and dependents their own health insurance exchange, while officially moving them off of the larger Federal Employees Health Benefit Program in 2025.

The 2022 Postal Service Reform Act sought to address the costs USPS incurred from a 2006 law that required it to pre-fund its retiree health benefits. As part of the stand-up of the PSHB, OPM operated the exchange as part of the larger FEHB program — where USPS employees, retirees and dependents could shop coverage like other federal employees — until its own coverage plans could be established.

“The Postal Service Health Benefits Program will offer robust health benefits for postal employees and their families,” said OPM director Kiran Ahuja, in a statement. “This program improvement is only possible thanks to carrier participation and the tireless work of USPS and our OPM team.”

The 32 carrier applications, pending benefits and rate negotiations, include both Health Maintenance Organization and fee-for-service plans from companies and providers such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, CareFirst BlueChoice, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, Inc. and UPMC, alongside plans from the American Postal Workers Union, the Government Employees Health Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers and other providers.

OPM officials said last week that most PSHB enrollees will receive insurance plans equivalent to their 2024 FEHB plan option, although if an FEHB carrier isn’t in the new exchange, USPS employees and annuitants will be enrolled in “the lowest-cost, nationwide PSHB plan that is not a high-deductible health plan and does not charge an association or membership fee.”

The other change resulting from the stand-up of the PSHB is the requirement for new retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B coverage, which is expected to help absorb about $9 billion in program costs over the next decade.

USPS employees and annuitants will be able to select their new coverage during the 2024 Open Season, which is usually slated to run between November and December.

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