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Affordable Care Act impacts federal benefits

American Forces Press Service

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be implemented Jan. 1 affecting eligibility and benefits for appropriated civilian employees under the Federal Employees Health Benefits and Federal Flexible Spending Account programs.

One of the provisions of Public Law 111-148 changes FEHB dependent eligibility rules.

“One of the most welcomed changes is the extension of health benefits coverage for children under their parent’s health benefit until the age of 26,” said Kathryn Iapichino, a human resources specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center here. “This is a relief to many parents whose children are attending college and do not have access to affordable health care. This also precludes parents from having to purchase additional health care coverage for this child, often at 75 percent more than what the federal employee would pay for family coverage.”

The provision includes married children; however, it does not include their spouses or children. It also removes the residency and dependency requirements and allows children who currently have or are eligible for their own insurance, to be placed on their parents’ FEHB plan.

Employees may add their eligible children either during the 2010 Open Season beginning Nov. 8 and lasting through Dec. 13, 2010, or as a qualifying life event.

Those currently enrolled in self and family coverage should contact their plan provider to add eligible children to their FEHB. Employees who are enrolled in self and family coverage and are planning on making an open season election to elect coverage with another carrier can add their eligible children when processing their election.

Employees enrolled in self-only coverage or not enrolled in FEHB may make an open season election for self and family coverage to add their children to their FEHB. Employees may process an open season election through the Benefits and Entitlements Service Team system at 800-565-0102, or the Employee Benefits Information System Web application available through the Air Force Portal or AFPC secure applications website. Open season elections will be effective Jan. 2, 2011.

Employees enrolled in self-only coverage or are not enrolled in FEHB may also enroll in self and family coverage as a qualifying life event, electing “Change in Family Status.” To elect coverage due to a “Change in Family Status,” employees must contact the Total Force Service Center between Dec. 1 and March 1, 2011. This change cannot be accomplished using the BEST phone or EBIS systems. Elections based on a qualifying life event will be effective Dec. 19, in order to make your child’s coverage effective Jan. 1, 2011.

The Affordable Care Act has also extended the eligibility age for reimbursement of eligible expenses under an employee’s Health Care FSA. This change will allow employees to request reimbursement of eligible expenses through the taxable year prior to their child turning age 27. Eligible children include the employee’s natural child, stepchild, adopted child, foster child or a child placed with the employee for legal adoption. This act has also removed the requirement that children reside with the employee or qualify as the employee’s tax dependent.

Also effective for the 2011 plan year, over-the-counter products that are classified as medicines or drugs will require a prescription from a physician in order to receive reimbursement from a Health Care FSA. This does not include insulin. Other over-the-counter items that are not classified as medicines or drugs will not require a prescription.

For additional information, Air Force-serviced employees may contact the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102. Hearing-impaired employees with access to TDD equipment may reach a benefits counselor by calling 800-382-0893 or 210-565-2276.