Health insurance: Pay a little now or a lot later

Wednesday - 11/13/2013, 2:00am EST

If you or a family member gets hit with a six-figure medical bill next year, how would you pay for it? Could you pay for it?

You may be the fittest person in the IRS or the FBI. You may be the most organic, health-conscious couple at the Environmental Protection Agency. And that's nice...

But nobody is immune to accidents — at home, at work or on your commute or vacation —or to a previously unknown heart condition, stroke or cancer. Worst-case scenarios are grim, but when it comes to you and your family's health, stop channeling Scarlett O'Hara and instead put on your big-boy/big-girl pantaloons. Not a fun subjects but...

If you have health insurance — good coverage — the insurance company would pay most of the bill. But...

If you are uninsured (not smart) or underinsured (also not good), you could wind up with tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills that would be your responsibility.

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Open Season just started and it will run through Dec. 9. While many others are struggling with new rules under the Affordable Care Act, federal and postal workers and retirees remain in familiar territory.

During the open-enrollment period, feds and retirees — regardless of age, sex, preexisting medical condition or lifestyle — can sign up for any of dozens of plans and options. They can't be turned down, and because it is a group plan, young and old, healthy and gravely ill, will pay the same premiums. And the government will pay roughly 70 percent of that premium. More if you are a postal worker.

The good news is that all of the plans in the FEHBP are good. But there is no one-size-fits-all plan (although some come close) for everybody. If you need lots of services, are expecting a baby, use lots of prescription drugs, some are better than others. That's true for very young healthy workers, middle- aged employees and their families and retirees — many of them in their 80s — with and without Medicare.

If your doctor or doctors are important to you, check with his or her office to find out if they are in the network of the plan or plans you are considering. You should also check the catastrophic coverage of any plan you are considering. That is the upward limit on what you will have to pay, out-of-pocket, before the insurance plan takes over your bills. That, as we pointed out yesterday, is your bankruptcy insurance.

So how do you navigate your way to the best plan during the Open Season? Start out by turning on your radio (or computer) today at 10 a.m. for our "Your Turn" radio program.

Our guest for the full hour today is Walton Francis. He's the long-time editor of Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans which is the guide to finding the best plan for you and everyone in your office.

Francis will explain what you should look for, and what you should avoid during the hunting season.

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.

Listen a little, save a lot.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Lego, the classic children's toy, got its name from the Danish phrase "leg godt," which means "play well."

(Source: Today I Found Out)

Mea Culpa: Federal News Radio producer Lauren Larson and her crack team of investigators have cast doubt on Monday's Nearly Useless Factoid, which purported that Mahatma Gandhi was a newspaper reporter during the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. It turns out Gandhi was arrested by British police in Bombay in January 1932 and remained there until at least September when he began a high- profile fast to improve the status of the Untouchables. As ChaCha.com notes, "those facts make it pretty unlikely that Gandhi was a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles during the 1932 Olympics, but it's a cool 'what if?' to consider."


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