Which is better: Too much or not enough?

Thursday - 11/10/2011, 2:00am EST

If you are overinsured and never get sick or have an accident, you are lucky. But you've wasted money in premiums.

If, on the other hand, you only have bare-bones (no pun intended) coverage and the worst happens, you and your family could go broke. It happens all the time.

For many current and future federal retirees, Medicare Part B is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. That is, you don't know whether to embrace it or run screaming (or quietly) for cover. Like a pet silverback, it can be helpful and comforting or it can financially crush you.

For experts on the subject of retired feds and Medicare, the answer is simple. That is: It depends.

David Snell, director of retirement benefits for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, says his organization gets the "Medicare: 2 B or Not to B" questions all the time.

He was our guest yesterday on our Your Turn radio show. It was the first question out of the box.

"We don't tell folks which way to go...since such a decision involves the individual's medical situation and finances. But we do provide information for the individual to ponder," he said. Medicare Part A covers hospital related costs and is premium free for most feds and retirees once they become age 65. We strongly suggest that individuals not decline it. Medicare Part B is optional...enrollment is voluntary. It covers physician and medical costs. Part B duplicates benefits covered by the plans in the FEHBP federal health program with the important exception of prescription drug benefits."

Snell said, "we tell folks that just because they woke up at age 65 doesn't mean they need twice as much health insurance as they did the day before...if the Medicare eligible individual is only using their FEHBP plan for routine tests, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to enroll in Part B and pay about $1,200 more a year ($99.90 a month) on top of their FEHBP premium."

But, there is always the but. "On the other hand," he said, "if having as much medical insurance as they can afford helps you sleep at night...if you are a belt-and-suspenders person...then by all means sign up for the extra coverage. But if you do that, think about changing to another FEHBP plan with lower monthly premiums since Medicare is the primary insurer for retirees and the FEHBP serves basically as a supplement to Part B."

Bottom line — it's your choice. But, as he said, if you do decide to take Part B, shop around for a lower-premium health plan during the open season which begins Monday.

Also on yesterday show's, Stephen Losey of the Federal Times said the Defense Department is seriously considering a streamlined pass-fail rating system for civilian employees. It is looking for a replacement for the highly-touted, then highly denounced, National Security Personnel System. He also talked about Air Force plans to whack 13,500 jobs and also the debate between the media and politicians who say feds are overpaid, and the government which says Uncle Sam trails the private sector by an average of 24 percent. To hear the entire broadcast, click here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Rapper Heavy D passed away yesterday. While some rappers pushed for freedom of speech, AllHipHop.com reports, "Heavy D - always the gentleman - was busy taking his own stand on the 1991 track 'Don't Curse.'"


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