FEHBP Best Buys

Wednesday - 11/23/2011, 2:00am EST

For many of us, the most pressing immediate question is whether to have turkey, ham or nut cutlets for Thanksgiving. Next issue: How much to eat and how to get out of doing the dishes. But fall is also health-insurance hunting season and everybody should take a little time looking at their health plan options.

The primary question is simple enough: What's the best health plan?

Unfortunately, simple questions rarely produce simple answers. Especially if you are asking that question in Washington. And even more so when the subject is health insurance, as in what's the best deal for you.

The good news is that federal workers, Postal employees, retirees and their survivors — nearly 9 million people — have lots of choices. That includes a variety of plans and a variety of options within those plans. Many if not most private-sector employees don't have the multiple-choice problem. If they even have a choice, they may be limited to two plans. Many (about half) don't have any employer-sponsored health coverage.

Federal workers and retirees can't be rejected by any plan, for any reason including age, lifestyle, habits (good or nasty) or preexisting condition. Non-postal workers can join the highly rated APWU (American Postal Workers Union) plan, the NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers plan) and you don't have to be DEA, FBI or Secret Service to get into SAMBA's (Special Agents Mutual Benefit Association) health plan, or the very popular Mail Handlers Plan.

In most instances, you must be enrolled in one of the FEHBP plans for the five years before you retire to be able to take the insurance with you when you retire.

Lots of good reasons to listen to today's Your Turn radio show (10 a.m. EST) because we have two very timely guests. Stephen Losey, reporter for the Federal Times will talk about what's next for feds — extended pay freeze and layoffs for example — now that the supercommittee has fizzled.

Health insurance expert Walton Francis will also help you navigate the "best buys" for singles, couples, large families, retirees with and without Medicare, and people who are taking risks by using their private sector spouses health plan. He;s editor of Checkbook's Guide to Federal Health Plans. The rating system he uses makes it easy to figure out your likely total health costs (premiums and out of pocket expenses) for the year.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.

In addition to lots of choices, the federal employee health benefits program (FEHBP) also offers options (high and low) within each plan. Some also offer High Deductible plans and Health Savings Plan Accounts. Benefits expert John Elliott says the HD/HSA combination can be a big-time money saver .

The bottom line: You need to shop around.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgot what you were planning to do? You're not alone, and there may be a reason why, according to Life's Little Mysteries. A University of Notre Dame psychologist says walking though a doorway acts as an "event boundary," for the mind. That means simply walking through a door can reshuffle and compartmentalize our thoughts, making instant recall more challenging.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Feds should plan for worst case scenario, expert says
Members of the congressional supercommittee will not meet a Wednesday deadline to find more than $1 trillion in spending cuts. Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center analyzes what that could mean for federal employees.

Moran: Budget cuts to force out 'best and brightest' feds
The Virginia Congressman did not parse words about what he thought about the current state of affairs on the Hill. Talking about some of his fellow lawmakers, he said, "A lot of these people, frankly, don't belong in Congress."