The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 57 AFSA NEWS AFSA Honors 2022 Sinclaire Language Award Recipients FEHB Insurance and Benefits Presentation Proficiency in foreign languages is a vital skill for members of the U.S. Foreign Service, not only for professional develop- ment but also for personal security and success at post. Each year since 1982, AFSA has recognized the outstand- ing accomplishments of FS members in the study and use of difficult languages through the Matilda W. Sinclaire Awards program. AFSA established this program with a gener- ous bequest from former Foreign Service Officer Matilda W. Sinclaire, who sought “to promote and reward superior achievement by career officers of the Foreign Service … while studying one of the Category III or IV languages under the auspices of the Foreign Service Institute.” Any career or career-conditional member of the Foreign Service from the Department of State, USAID, Foreign Com- mercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Agency for Global Media, or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is eligible for the award. Recipients are selected by a committee comprising the dean (or designee) of the FSI School of Language Studies and the AFSA Awards and Plaques Committee. Each winner receives $1,500 and a certificate of recognition. This year’s recipients demonstrated dedication to and extraordinary skills in their chosen language through their engagement in a variety of in-language activities in and out of the classroom to improve fluency. We are pleased to announce the 2022 Sinclaire Award recipients: • Virgilio Bisio: Chinese • Devon Gan: Farsi • Chanel Grice: Vietnamese • Philmon Haile: Turkmen • Aaron Huang: Vietnamese • Audrey Stevens: Turkish • Elisabeth Stratton: Arabic • Sarah Samantha Yee: Georgian • Yang Zhang Monteiro: Georgian For more information on the Sinclaire Awards, contact AFSAAwards Coordinator Theo Horn at, or visit Nominations for the 2023 Sinclaire Awards are now being accepted; the deadline is Aug. 25, 2023. n On Nov. 15, AFSA welcomed Paula Jakub, CEO and executive vice president of the American Foreign Service Protective Association and subject matter expert in federal health bene- fits, for a Zoom presentation to speak to both active-duty and retired members about the 2023 Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Insurance and Benefits Program. Ms. Jakub informed attendees that under FEHB, the U.S. government pays about 70 percent of each enrollee’s pre- mium, and the average premium for 2023 has increased by 8.7 percent—the largest increase in more than a decade. This jump, she said, reflects the higher use of outpatient services and facilities; increased use of professional services; and increased use and unit cost of specialty drugs. While these medications have a positive impact on health and quality of life, their average cost stands at about $20,000 per patient, increasing 43 percent since 2016. She explained that the health care industry is still experi- encing reverberations from the pandemic: Because of COVID- 19, many patients put off regular medical exams, leading to delayed diagnosis of and treatment for issues including diabetes, cancer, and musculoskeletal conditions. One posi- tive effect, however, is that social distancing measures made telehealth and telemedicine a more accepted, mainstream form of treatment that can increase patient access to care. In terms of comprehensive FEHB benefits, Ms. Jakub pointed out that the Office for Personnel Management works closely with each plan in the program to provide wide-ranging benefits for employees and annuitants. For 2023, plans continue to include mental health and substance use disorder support, and coverage for COVID-19 countermeasures. Also, four plans now include infertility treatment and support. Moving forward, Ms. Jakub encouraged attendees to take stock of their overall health so they can plan appropriately for their health care needs. She recommended taking a health risk assessment, getting a biometric screening, and joining wellness incentive programs included in certain FEHB plans. To learn more, AFSA members can view the entire presen- tation on AFSA’s YouTube channel, @AFSAtube. n