Open Season: To Change Or Not To Change

Tuesday - 12/9/2008, 4:00am EST

Open season for the federal employee health benefits program has been extended through the end of January. The original deadline for picking your 2009 health plan was yesterday, Monday, December 8.

FederalNewsRadio's Max Cacas first reported the extension on Friday, even before the official OPM announcement.

This is what OPM said in its press release:

"The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today (Dec. 5) announced it has taken steps to provide additional protections for federal employees participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program who have non-emergency surgeries performed by out-of-network surgeons. The agency has asked FEHB carriers to re-evaluate their benefits for non-emergency surgeries and has instructed Federal agencies to accept belated Open Season enrollments."

To see the entire OPM press release, click here.

So yes, the open season has been extended. It's official. Does that mean that you should change plans? Not necessarily. Again, back to basics.

The things to consider in your health plan are:

    Catastrophic coverage: That is the amount you would pay out of pocket in a worst-case medical scenario, next year. That could include a major illness or accident. Best bets: click here.

    Participation: Is your doctor (or doctors) part of the your health plan's network? And will he or she be in that network next year? If not, and you insist on going to that doctor anyhow, you should check to see if he/she is in some other plan's network. Health insurance expert Walton Francis says you should never, ever go out of network unless you are prepared to pay a lot more for the services. Emphasis on "a lot" more!!!

    Premiums: Nobody wants to pay too much for health insurance. Check out our archived Federal Report columns for the best buys for singles, best bets for families, as well as premiums for postal workers who pay a lot less for the same coverage.

Dec. 26th ???

Still no word on whether the White House will grant a bonus holiday on Dec. 26th. Most feds, naturally, would love it. The problem is that given the economic condition of the country, with furloughs, layoffs and pay givebacks commonplace, how would it play in Peoria? Think about how your nonfederal workers would take it.

Stay tuned!!!

Nearly Useless Factoid

Contrary to popular opinion, there are some things that have gotten cheaper over the past decade. According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index, items like footwear, apparel, electronics, phones, toys, watches and new vehicles are comparatively cheaper today than they were 10 years ago. Then again, now that I think about it, so am I.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com