Eligibility for FEHB Health Benefits After Retirement

When you retire, you are eligible to continue Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB)coverage if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • you are entitled to retire on an immediate annuity under a retirement system for civilian employees (including FERS MRA + 10 retirements); and
  • you have been continuously enrolled (or covered as a family member) in any FEHB plan(s) for the 5 years of service immediately before the date your annuity starts, or for the full period(s) of service since your first opportunity to enroll (if less than 5 years).

When you elect not to enroll or cancel your enrollment, you certify by your signature on the Health Benefits Election form (SF 2809) that you understand the effect this has on your eligibility to carry coverage into retirement.


If you are a separating employee covered under FERS and you qualify for an immediate annuity under the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA) + 10 provision, you can continue your enrollment when your annuity starts, as long as you meet the requirements for continuing coverage.

If you postpone receipt of your annuity, your enrollment will terminate when you separate from your employment. You will be eligible for temporary continuation of coverage (TCC)  or to convert to an individual contract. You may choose to resume FEHB coverage on the date you select for your annuity to begin.


For purposes of continuing FEHB coverage into retirement, "service" means time in a position in which you were eligible to be enrolled. You are not required to have been an enrollee continuously, but you must have been continuously covered by an FEHB enrollment. This includes:

  • time you are covered as a family member under another person's FEHB enrollment;
  • time you are covered under the Uniformed Services Health Benefits Program (also known as TRICARE or CHAMPUS) as long as you were covered under an FEHB enrollment at the time of your retirement. (You must enroll in FEHB within 60 days after you lose coverage under the Uniformed Services Health Benefits Program for that time to be considered as part of continuous FEHB coverage.)

Coverage under Medicare does not count in determining continuous coverage.

Service as a Non-appropriated Fund employee does not count in determining continuous coverage since it is not Federal service and not subject to FEHB coverage.

Break in Service

Breaks in service are not counted as interruptions when the 5 years of service requirement is determined, as long as you reenroll within 60 days after your return to Federal service.

Example 1:  Joan elected FEHB coverage on February 11, 1990, and had a break in service from January 1, 1994 through January 1, 1996. Upon her return to service, she again elected to enroll. She retires on December 31, 1997. She is eligible to continue her health benefits coverage into retirement, since she has been continuously enrolled for the 5 years of service prior to retirement.

Example 2:  Eduardo elected not to enroll in the FEHB Program upon his employment. He left Federal service in 1993. He was rehired in 1993, and elected to enroll. When he retired in 1996, he was not eligible to continue health benefits into retirement since he was not covered for the five years of service before his retirement. His 1993 rehire date does not count as his first opportunity to be insured because of his prior employment in which he elected not to enroll.

Late Election

You are considered to have been continuously enrolled when you are allowed to make a late election because your employing office determined that you weren't able to timely enroll for reasons beyond your control.

Example:  Anne's employing office notified her on March 20, 1993 that she could make a late election to enroll in the FEHB Program. She promptly enrolled, and on January 1, 1998, she retired. She is able to continue her health benefits coverage into retirement, since March 20, 1993, is considered to be her first opportunity to enroll.

Service with an International Organization

If you transfer to an International Organization and elect to continue FEHB coverage, the service with the International Organization is included in determining whether the 5 years of service requirement is met. If you don't elect to continue your FEHB coverage or drop your enrollment before you return to Federal service, the time with the International Organization without FEHB coverage is not included in determining whether the 5-year requirement was met.

Eligibility as a Temporary Employee

Your decision not to enroll as a temporary employee eligible for coverage under 5 U.S.C. 8906a doesn't affect your future eligibility to continue coverage as a retiree. Only service for which the Government contributes toward the cost of your health benefits counts in determining whether you meet the 5 years of service (or first opportunity) requirements to continue coverage as a retiree. Since the Government doesn't share in the cost of a temporary employee's enrollment, eligibility to enroll under 5 U.S.C. 8906a is not considered your first opportunity for purposes of continuing health benefits coverage into retirement.

Eligibility under Temporary Continuation of Coverage

Your enrollment or eligibility for enrollment as a former employee under the temporary continuation of coverage (TCC) provisions is not considered in determining whether you meet the 5 years of service requirement for continued coverage as a retiree, since you are not a Federal employee at that time. However, time that you were an employee eligible to enroll but were covered as a family member under the TCC enrollment of another person does count toward the 5 years of service requirement.

Who Makes the Determination?

At retirement, your employing office will tentatively determine if you are eligible to continue your enrollment. OPM's Office of Retirement Programs (or your retirement system) will review your retirement and health benefits documents and make a final determination of your eligibility to continue your FEHB enrollment into retirement.

Waiver of 5-Year Enrollment Requirement

Public Law 99-251 gave OPM the authority to waive the 5 years of service requirement when, in its sole discretion, it determines that it would be against equity and good conscience not to allow a person to be enrolled in the FEHB Program as an annuitant.

Your failure to satisfy the 5-year requirement must be due to exceptional circumstances. If you request a waiver, you must provide OPM with evidence that:

  • you had intended to have FEHB coverage as a retiree;
  • the circumstances that prevented you from meeting the 5-year requirement were essentially outside your control; and
  • you acted reasonably to protect your right to continue FEHB coverage into retirement. (This includes reading and acting on information provided and requesting information if none is given automatically.)