Couples with healthy open marriages

Wednesday - 11/30/2011, 2:00am EST

Two can live as cheaply as one if:
  • One of you agrees to stop eating.

  • You two decide to share a wardrobe.

    One of you stays home at vacation time.

  • You decide to be in the same family health plan rather than each going it alone with self-only coverage.
Many federal couples without children resent paying the same family health plan premiums as a family with multiple kids. In the federal health program, the family plan premium is typically more than double the self-only premium.

In the popular Blue Cross basic plan, for example, the 2012 self-only premium for workers and retirees will be $1,460 compared to $3,430 for family coverage. Getting two self-only plans would save more than $500 in premiums. The deal-breaker, most of the time, comes in the all-important catastrophic coverage of the plans. That's the amount you would have to pay out of pocket next year before insurance took over. In the Blue Cross plan, the limit each person in a self-only plan would have to pay out of pocket would be $5,980, whereas if they had a family plan the limit, for the entire family, would be only $7,280.

The health insurance open season ends Dec. 12th. So what's the best health plan for you? The short (and honest) answer is that it depends on several things. Your age, health, family size, even your lifestyle and hobbies (like cliff diving).

Walton Francis, editor of the Washington Consumers Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans says everybody should shop around. Premiums in most plans are going up modestly next year, but the government will continue to pay the lion's share (about 70 percent) of premiums for federal workers and retirees. The U.S. Postal Service pays an even greater share of employee (but not retiree) premiums.

Most people are eligible for around 20 plans and options. They range from nationwide fee-for-service plans like Blue Cross, Foreign Service, Compass Rose, GEHA, APWU, SAMBA, Mail Handlers, NALC and Rural Carriers to complicated but highly recommended Consumer Driven and High Deductible plans, offered by the APWU, Aetna, GEHA, Mail Handlers and Coventry. Some of the best bargains (and best maternity benefits) are with local HMOs like Kaiser, Aetna, CareFirst Blue Choice, Coventry and MD-IPA.

Nobody can be turned down because of age, health or preexisting conditions. If you get married, divorced or your spouse dies you can change from family to self-only coverage at any time. If you have a child, you can switch from self-only to family coverage. Also, if you are in an HMO and you move out if its coverage area you can have your own personal open season.

Members of Congress and their staffs are currently under the same health plans — and pay the same premiums — as rank-and-file feds.

Today at 10 a.m. EST , Walt Francis will be on our Your Turn radio show. We've got a batch of questions for him already, but you can send yours to me at: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call while we are on air at 202-465-3080. The show is archived, so if you can't listen live you can catch it later.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

A Sacramento State psychology professor can no longer require that students bring him snacks before class. The professor, who had listed the snack requirement on his syllabus for 39 years, walked out of a midterm review class because the students didn't bring snacks, according to the Sacramento Bee. He said it was a way of "encouraging the students to work collectively," the Bee reported.


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