Federal officials have extended dental insurance enrollment for thousands of military retirees who missed or ignored a Monday sign-up cutoff as the Tricare Retiree Dental Plan (TRDP) prepares to sunset Dec. 31.
Enrollment for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) was scheduled to be open from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10. As of Tuesday, about 627,000 of the approximately 800,000 military retirees currently enrolled in TRDP had purchased a new plan through FEDVIP. Roughly 52,000 of those enrolled Monday.
Although the Office of Personnel Management enrollment website known as Benefeds notes that open season has ended, a message at the top announces, "Missed open enrollment? You may still be able to enroll. Review your options."
"The 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season ended on December 10, but you may still be able to enroll in FEDVIP if you experienced extenuating circumstances that prevented you from enrolling during open season," the website states before walking users through enrollment. "To see if this applies to you, you must first answer a few eligibility questions and set up your My Benfeds account. Then, select 'Enroll' in dental or vision coverage from your account dashboard to see what enrollment options are available to you."
After walking through a standard series of enrollment eligibility question-and-answer screens that includes verification that the user is a military retiree, for example, those deemed eligible are prompted to create a Benefeds account to complete enrollment.
At no point during the process are users asked to confirm that they experienced "extenuating circumstances" that prevented enrollment by the Dec. 10 cutoff, a Military.com test of the system shows.
Enrollment for the FEDVIP vision plans, offered this year to military retirees and active-duty families for the first time, also appears to be extended.
It is not clear when the extension will end. Officials with OPM did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Although rumors about a possible extension have been swirling since early November, officials with OPM, which manages the FEDVIP program, denied open season would be extended to accommodate late registrations. Questions about extending enrollment for other reasons were not answered over the course of four days.
"We do not have anticipation of low numbers of enrollment, and we have no plans to extend Open Season for any of the Open Season benefits," OPM officials said in a statement Nov. 19.
Congress ordered TRDP to end as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
Tricare also this year administered its first-ever open season, during which users could change plans. Although that window also ended Monday, by law Tricare is required to allow changes through Dec. 31 as the tail end of a series of major system changes began rolling out Jan. 1 this year.
After Jan. 1, 2019, users must instead experience a "qualifying life event" to swap between the program's Tricare Prime and Tricare Select plans or wait until the next open season, scheduled for next fall.
Tricare's open season changes do not impact Tricare for Life users.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.