The dating game: government style

Wednesday - 11/16/2011, 2:00am EST

What part does health insurance play in the dating/mating game?

Not much in your 20s. You are immortal and looking for somebody who is fun. Maybe a bad boy, or the female equivalent. Who needs Blue Cross?

In your 30s, (I am told) you are starting to think "this-is-serious." As a lovely coworker said "You are in it to win it." You would like to have a family and therefore ba family plan. HMOs have great maternity benefits.

In your 40s, the odd lump or spot appears (so I am told). You look for someone nice, someone to spend time with. Maybe somebody covered by an HMO. Or who knows that SAMBA is not a dance.

From age 50 on, singles focus on a couple of things. Are those your real teeth? Forget long walks on the beach. The question is, can you drive at night? Do you work for the government? Or are you a retiree (or survivor annuitant) eligible for the cradle-to-grave federal health program? Many experts consider the FEHBP the best health care package in the U.S. For people in the know, anyone with the FEHBP and an accompanying HD/HSA looks awfully good. The equivalent of George Clooney or Helen Mirren.

In the Washington area and other major federal centers from Huntsville to Cincinnati, Denver, Baltimore, Ogden and Austin, having one of the FEHBP plans is a bigger attraction than thick wavy hair, long legs or a bright smile. Some feds (and retirees) report that in the D.C. area, the opening line in mature singles groups isn't "What's your sign?" but rather "Are you with the government?"

Although many feds and retirees find major fault with the FEHBP, lots of people outside the government would trade key parts of their anatomy to get in it. They would happily pay 30 percent of the total premium (less if they got a postal job or landed a postal worker). And they would appreciate the annual open seasons when people can change plans with guaranteed acceptance regardless of age, habits, preexisting conditions or medical problems.

The open season started Monday and will run through mid-December. Premiums are going up an "average" of 3.8 percent, which means some will rise a lot more, some less, a few will actually reduce premiums.

Walton Francis, author of "The Checkbook Guide to Health Plans", says all of the FEHBP plans are good. But some are too costly. Others could force a family of three to pay out as much as $27,000 out of pocket before the catastrophic limit is reached.

Francis says that picking the right plan for you (and your family) could save you $1,000 to $2,000 next year. The good news/bad news is there are so many choices.

Health Maintenance Organizations can be a very good deal. One-stop shopping, low premiums, low copayments, minimal paperwork. But there are times when a national fee-for-service plan (APWU, NALC, SAMBA, Mail Handlers, GEHA) is what you need.

So how do you know what you need?

Start out by listening to our Your Turn radio show today. Walton Francis will be the guest and he'll give his "best buy" ratings based on both coverage and premiums but also your likely out-of-pocket costs in each plan.

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 so you can hear it from home or your laptop at the coffee shop.

If you have questions you can call us at 202.465.3080 or you can email questions to mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The seventh president, Andrew Jackson, kept a nearly 1,400 pound block of cheese bearing patriotic descriptions — a gift from a New York dairy farmer — at the White House, according to mental_floss. Jackson featured the hunk of cheese at his last public reception, which was quickly devoured by the guests and helped cement Jackson's populist image. Jackson's vice president Martin Van Buren, who took office in 1837, had to repaint the walls of the room where the cheese was kept to fully get rid of the smell.

Editor's note: Jack Moore's full name is Andrew Jackson Moore, named after the seventh president.


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