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Expanded eligibility for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. 

Currently, employees are expected to work six months or more each year in order to receive coverage under the FEHB program. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a final rule that expands eligibility for coverage under the FEHB program to certain temporary, seasonal, and intermittent employees who are identified as full-time employees. (attached). The effective date of the new rule is November 17, 2014. The IRS has agreed to announce the new rule and begin accepting enrollments. Enrollments for newly eligible employees will be accepted during a 60-day period after the IRS notifies employees of their eligibility to enroll in a FEHB plan. The IRS is working to identify those employees, including employees in a non-work status, who may meet the new criteria and will be sending letters to those affected employees by the week of November 17, 2014, with information and instructions on how to enroll in the FEHB and FSA programs. The regulation makes FEHB coverage available to newly eligible employees no later than January 2015. 

The modified OPM regulation states that if an employee is expected to work 130 hours per calendar month and for at least 90 days, then the employee is eligible to enroll in health benefits under the FEHB program. The determination concerning the length of time an employee is expected to work is made prior to the performance of such work. The agency may not rescind coverage in the event an employee works for less time than expected. 

Further, most employees on temporary appointments became eligible for FEHB coverage after completing one year of current continuous employment and, once eligible, did not receive an employer contribution to their premium. Those temporary employees working for 12 consecutive months who are already eligible to enroll in the FEHB program, and who are expected to work for 130 hours per month for at least 90 days, will now be eligible to receive a full employer contribution toward the FEHB premium. In fact, all newly eligible employees will receive the same government contribution as full-time, permanent employees, while they are in a paid status. 

The regulation makes FEHB coverage available to newly enrolled employees by January 2015. Coverage will become effective the first day of the first pay period after receipt of a request for benefits, which follows a pay period where the employee is in pay status. The IRS and NTEU have agreed to address any negotiations issues concerning the modified regulation in post-implementation bargaining, if necessary. 

Be advised that the language in Article 22, Section 2D2 and Article 27, Section 12 of the 2012 National Agreement II, which reflects the current six-month rule for eligibility for FEHB coverage, will be modified by the parties to conform to the revised OPM rule. In the meantime, the new OPM rule will trump the language of the contract. 

We have asked the IRS a number of questions concerning the logistics of the implementation of this new rule.

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