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Open Season starting points from the pros
Tuesday - 11/9/2010, 4:42pm EST
Federal News Radio continues its coverage of open season by speaking with Walton Francis, editor of the "Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees." Many federal agencies have subscribed to the guide which workers can use for free.
The "Checkbook Guide" offers recommendations but people with unique situations -- if you are getting a hip replacement surgery or having a child -- should also consult with their health care providers, Francis said.
Consumer-driven and high-deductible plans
Both consumer and high-deductible plans allow you to accumulate money in a savings account. Physicals are free. So if you only have a couple of doctor's visits annually, you will end up with the money, about $1-2,000 a year.
The high-deductible plan uses a health savings account, which is "money in your name," Francis said. If you leave the health plan, the money goes with you.
However, the consumer plan uses a health reimbursement account that does not stay with you if you leave the plan.
"Anyone who's not considering one of these two kinds of plans is not doing due diligence during open season," Francis said.
Do you need Medicare?
A married couple with Medicare Part B and the Blue Cross standard plan will have to pay $7,500 annually in premiums alone.
"The question is, Do you benefit from Medicare sufficiently for it to be worth the premium?" Francis said. "If you expect to or want to go out of network, Medicare Part B is a really helpful buy and there's some people for whom that's extremely important."
Other options are less expensive than the Part B and Blue Cross standard combination.
All plans except for Blue Cross basic guarantee you pay nothing out of pocket for hospitals or doctors if you have Medicare Part B.
"In that sense, it's a good deal," Francis said.
Having both a FEHB plan and Medicare is also "political insurance" under a new Congress where the fate of federal pay and benefits is uncertain.
"Suppose Congress ... does something bad to one program or the other. If you have both it's a little insurance you can maneuver," Francis said.