When dull is good

Friday - 11/18/2011, 2:15am EST

"Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children!"

It figures an Irish guy, George Bernard Shaw, would come up with that. But it is so true. And that's why picking a health plan is easy. Simple. Child's play.

If...

You are young, healthy and single. Piece of cake.

Come to think of it, just about everything is easier if you are young, healthy and single. But...

Most of us are not that young, not so healthy and may very well be married.

If you all of the above — middle-aged, creaky and hitched — you fit the profile of the typical federal worker. Which means the health insurance hunting season, which began Monday and ends Dec. 12 is something of a challenge.

Walton Francis, author of Checkbook's Guide to Federal Health Plans says this is the dullest open season in decades. In this case, dull is good. It is dull in that most plans that are increasing premiums (average hike: 3.8 percent) aren't raising them much. A few are cutting premiums. Benefit changes are minimal.

But just because this is a dull open season doesn't mean you don't have to shop around. Pay has been frozen. And that free could be extended another year or two.

One way you can practically make your health plan pay your premiums is to check out one of the High Deductible health plans or Consumer Driven plans, in combination with a Health Savings Account. Those plans are the APWU CDHP, the GEHA HDHP, Aetna's HealthFund HDHP and CDHP, Coventry HDHP and the Mail Handlers HDHP. You don't have to be a postal worker to have the APWU or Mail Handlers plans. For information on how they work, click here.

Most people — workers and retirees — do nothing during the open season. They may complain or grumble about what their plan doesn't cover, but relatively few people change plans. Those that do often wait until the last minute, although benefits and premiums are fixed and aren't going to change.

Starting next week, we'll get serious with a series of "best buy" columns for singles, Dinks (double-income no kids), families, seniors, retirees and postal workers.

Meantime if you are young, single and healthy enjoy it while you can. But don't let your relatively carefree status make you careless during the open season.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

A reporter in Papua New Guinea went the extra mile for a story. Writing a report about a reclusive group of rebels camped out in a jungle, the reporter agreed to be circumcised with bamboo sticks as part of a "cleansing ceremony" in order to secure the interview. He subsequently won a journalism award for "Best Scoop," The London Telegraph reported.


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