"27 days left --" The countdown has begun for civilian employees to sign up for the Federal Benefits Open Season or make changes to existing programs.

Up for enrollment, renewal and changes are the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP), Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), Federal Employ and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program, Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI), or FSAFEDS. According to OPM.gov, employees have until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 9 to get online and get covered.

"The only thing that's not included is the [Federal Employees Group Life Insurance,]" said Erika Jaskolski, director for the Fort Knox Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. "Normally, the changes and costs for the various plans are usually the number one thing people need to go look at."

In fact, the Office of Personnel Management website adds a disclaimer informing enrollees about their share of premiums for Self Plus One in some cases being higher than for the Self and Family coverage. The site advises that enrollees go to the OPM Open Season website below to find out if they are.

Information is provided for active federal employees, federal retirees and other annuitants, and tribal employees.

The Healthcare Plan Information webpage provides several downloadable sets of rate charts, separated into biweekly and monthly premiums. These charts include what the government pays, and what an enrollee's portion of the premiums will be this year compared to years past.

"People need to know what their deductions are as well as copays. Each plan will vary depending on which plan they choose," said Jaskolski. "It's really essential that they pay attention to that because I've had the same carrier for the last 10 years, but their deductions and copays have changed every year."

Jaskolski said the changes will depend on the carrier that enrollees choose.

The website that active federal employees, federal retirees and other annuitants, and tribal employees can go to for enrollment is the Army Benefits Center, listed below. The site offers several areas of information to allow enrollees to ensure they are getting the right plan for them. A key site for information is the Benefits tab with the yellow lightbulb found at the top left of the page.

Beyond that link are nine folders that Jaskolski said should just about answer any question enrollees have. Those who want to attend a Virtual Benefits Fair for information can register at the website below from now through Dec. 9.

"Depending on which company or plan you choose may require that you pay a certain deduction upfront. One may have a $1,500 deduction, whereas another one may only have copays for the services you've used.

"It varies."

Jaskolski said this is why it is essential to pick the right company and plans that work for the individual/family, something that can work in their favor when they take the time each year to ensure they have the right coverage for them and their family as well as potential cost savings.

"The annual open season benefits enrollees when insurance companies change plans or maybe the person's health situation changes and they need to choose a plan that best suits them," said Jaskolski. "Preexisting conditions aren't considered."