Understanding Federal Life and Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Guide

Federal life and health insurance programs play a crucial role in providing essential coverage for millions of federal employees, retirees, and their families. These programs, which include the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program and the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), offer a range of benefits designed to protect the well-being and financial stability of those who serve in various government roles. This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricacies of these programs, highlighting their benefits, eligibility requirements, and key features.

federal life health insurance

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program

The FEHB program is one of the largest employer-sponsored health insurance programs in the world. It provides health insurance coverage to federal employees, retirees, and their dependents. Established in 1960, the FEHB program offers a wide variety of plans, including fee-for-service (FFS) plans, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs), among others.


Eligibility for the FEHB program is generally extended to:

  • Federal employees with permanent appointments
  • Employees serving on temporary appointments exceeding one year
  • Annuitants (retirees receiving an annuity from the federal government)
  • Family members of eligible employees and annuitants, including spouses and dependent children under 26

Plan Options

The FEHB program offers a diverse array of plans to meet the varying needs of federal employees and their families. Key options include:

  1. Fee-for-Service (FFS) Plans: These plans provide flexibility in choosing healthcare providers and are typically preferred by those who want the freedom to select their doctors and hospitals. Many FFS plans also offer nationwide coverage, making them ideal for employees who may move or travel frequently.
  2. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs): HMOs usually require members to receive care from a network of designated providers. These plans often have lower out-of-pocket costs and are beneficial for individuals who prefer a coordinated approach to healthcare.
  3. Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHPs): CDHPs are designed to give members more control over their healthcare spending. They often come with health savings accounts (HSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that can be used to pay for medical expenses.


FEHB plans provide a comprehensive range of benefits, including:

  • Preventive care: Routine check-ups, immunizations, and screenings are typically covered without out-of-pocket costs.
  • Hospital and surgical services: Coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospital services, surgeries, and related treatments.
  • Prescription: Most plans offer coverage for prescription medications, often including both generic and brand-name.
  • Mental health services: Access to mental health professionals and treatments for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
  • Specialist care: Coverage for visits to specialists, such as cardiologists, oncologists, and dermatologists.

The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program


FEGLI is the largest group life insurance program in the world, offering term life insurance to federal employees, retirees, and their families. Established in 1954, FEGLI provides essential financial protection, helping beneficiaries manage the financial impact of the policyholder’s .


FEGLI eligibility typically includes:

  • Federal employees with permanent appointments
  • Employees serving on temporary appointments exceeding one year
  • Annuitants (with certain restrictions and conditions)
  • Family members, including spouses and dependent children, under certain options

Coverage Options

FEGLI offers several coverage options to cater to different needs and financial situations:

  1. Basic Insurance: This is the core component of FEGLI coverage and is automatically provided to eligible employees. The coverage amount is equal to the employee’s annual salary rounded up to the nearest thousand, plus an additional $2,000.
  2. Option A (Standard Optional Insurance): Provides an additional $10,000 of coverage.
  3. Option B (Additional Optional Insurance): Allows employees to choose coverage equal to one to five times their annual salary.
  4. Option C (Family Optional Insurance): Provides coverage for eligible family members. Employees can select coverage amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for a spouse and $2,500 to $12,500 for each dependent child.


FEGLI offers several significant benefits, including:

  • Financial protection: Provides a financial safety net for beneficiaries, helping to cover funeral expenses, debts, and other immediate financial needs following the policyholder’s .
  • Affordable premiums: Premiums for FEGLI are often lower than those for comparable individual policies due to the group nature of the program.
  • Convenient payroll deductions: Premiums are automatically deducted from the policyholder’s paycheck, simplifying the payment process.
  • Portability: Under certain conditions, employees who leave federal service can convert their FEGLI coverage to an individual policy.

Enrollment and Changes

FEHB Enrollment

Eligible federal employees can enroll in the FEHB program during the annual Open Season, typically held in the fall. New employees have a 60-day window from their entry-on-duty date to enroll. Changes to enrollment, such as adding or removing dependents or switching plans, can generally be made during Open Season or in response to qualifying life events (e.g., marriage, birth of a child).

FEGLI Enrollment

Enrollment in Basic FEGLI coverage is automatic for eligible employees, though they have the option to waive it. Optional coverages (Options A, B, and C) require affirmative election. Employees can increase their coverage during Open Season or within 60 days of a qualifying life event. Additionally, employees can request to enroll or increase coverage at any time by providing satisfactory evidence of insurability.

Federal life and health insurance programs, namely FEHB and FEGLI, provide vital coverage that supports the health and financial well-being of federal employees and their families. With a wide range of plan options, comprehensive benefits, and flexible enrollment opportunities, these programs are designed to meet the diverse needs of the federal workforce. Understanding the features and benefits of FEHB and FEGLI can help federal employees make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones effectively.

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