About those gaps ... in your teeth

Thursday - 11/7/2013, 2:00am EST

Is there someone in your office or carpool whose eternal optimism and cheerful demeanor gets on your nerves? Want to wipe that smile off his or her face? Make them as miserable as you are. If so...

Just ask them about the dental coverage offered by their federal health plan. Odds are he or she will either clam up or erupt with a torrent of complaints that will cheer even the crankiest colleague.

The open season for the federal health plans (including optional dental and vision coverage) begins Monday. It will run through Dec. 9. During that time workers, retirees and survivors will have the opportunity to change plans or coverage for the 2014 year. Premiums are going up an "average" of 4.4 percent next year for individuals while federal workers will be getting their first pay raise (1 percent) in four years, and retirees will get a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Walton Francis, editor of Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans, says everybody should shop around, and that many people can save $1,000 to $2,000 in premiums. In addition to policies sold by fee-for-service plans and health maintenance organizations (HMOs), feds can also buy supplemental insurance to cover dental and vision.

Many federal and postal workers think the less-than-satisfactory dental coverage is unique to their plan or to the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. In fact, many, if not most, people in the private sector also complain about gaps in their dental coverage.

Dental work is expensive. In an effort to minimize annual premium increases in the giant FEHB program, it was decided to either freeze or minimize any increases in dental benefits. The result today is that dental coverage in most fee-for-service plans is similar, and those in HMOs slightly better — but also very similar.

The government program also offers separate supplemental plans for both dental and vision coverage. It's called FEDVIP. Unlike the regular FEHBP (where government picks up an average of 70 percent of the premium) , subscribers pay the full premium in FEDVIP plans. Many also setup Flexible Spending Accounts which are funded biweekly from their paychecks with pre-tax dollars. In the past, workers could set aside up to $5,000 in an FSA. But this year, the new Affordable Care Act limited individual FSAs to $2,500.

So how do the FEDVIP plans work? What do they cover? On yesterday's Your Turn radio show we talked with Mike Davis. He's president of Dominion Dental, the only dental HMO plan offered for the 2014 FEDVIP program.

Davis said that in picking a dental plan — his or another — people should examine themselves. If they are young, healthy and regular brushers and flossers, they may get excellent coverage with a low-cost, basic plan. If you are older, have neglected your teeth or know you have problems, a more expensive Cadillac-type plan might be in order.

The dental plans can be purchased for self-only, self-plus-one or self-plus-two (or more) individuals. Same-sex partners can also be covered.

For a rundown on how the dental program works, listen to our Your Turn show which has been archived. You can also listen now, or anytime, by clicking here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Running champion Usain Bolt consumed 47,000 calories worth of Chicken McNuggets during his 10-day stay in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics (at which he won three gold medals). In his memoir, Bolt, who says he wasn't a a fan of Chinese cuisine, claims he ate about five 20-piece boxes of nuggets per day.

(Source: Huffington Post


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