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Federal employee health insurance premiums to rise 6.4%

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Health insurance premiums for the program that covers federal employees and retirees will increase an average of 6.4% next year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management disclosed Tuesday.

That 6.4% increase for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — the nation's largest group plan with 8.2 million enrollees —ends a four-year run in which the average annual premium increase was under 4%. Premiums increased an average of 3.2% in 2015, 3.7% in 2014, 3.4% in 2013 and 3.8% in 2012.

Escalating prescription drug costs, as has been the case for many private-sector employers, are a key factor in the sharp rise in premiums.

“One contributing factor to the somewhat higher FEHB premium increase than in the past several years is an uptick in the growth of drug costs. Drug costs are a much larger factor for the FEHB compared to most other employer-sponsored programs because annuitants, for whom drugs are the majority of benefits, are included in the FEHB risk pool. Drugs represent 26.5% of program costs versus 10% for a typical employer,” OPM said in a statement.

Federal employees can make their 2016 health plan selections between Nov. 9 through Dec. 15.