Pick a health plan: Monkey, goldfish or you?

Wednesday - 11/14/2012, 2:11pm EST

It's Open Season again. Whether you like it or not, you must pick the plan that would cover you and your family for the 2013 year. It is not hype to say that this could be the most important financial decision you will make this year. Or next. A catastrophic illness or accident, which could happen anytime, might wreck you physically and financially. That said...

Picking the best health plan for you and your family isn't rocket science. You can do it!

On the other hand...

You don't want your pet chimp or Mitzi the clever goldfish making the call by selecting the most colorful or interesting-to-them health plan brochure or ad.

Shoot for something in the middle:

That's where you select a couple of affordable plans, run them by your doctor (or someone in his/her office) and see what's affordable. Consider your medical costs in 2012 and your likely future needs, and compare them against what the plan covers. Picking a plan based on premiums alone can be a big mistake. Less isn't always better. Or even cheaper in the long haul.

The good news is that you have plenty of time to select your 2013 health plan. The open enrollment season — which covers a number of things in addition to the federal health program — runs through Dec. 10. If you do nothing, which is what most people do, you will stay in your current health plan next year. That may be OK, unless it is increasing premiums, reducing benefits or your doctor is leaving its network.

The other good news is that all of the health plans are good. But some are better (and less expensive) than others. If your doctor is part of the network, that is a big deal. It means you will pay only a small co-payment for many visits rather than the higher out-of-network fee.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield is where the largest number of active and retired federal workers and their survivors, are. But that covers a lot of territory. The standard and basic options are similar, but one costs a lot more than the other. Is it worth it?

Many feds and retirees pick the high option (which is usually more expensive) over the standard option of their plan. Is that smart? For safety's sake, is that the equivalent of buying a Cadillac over a Yugo? Which would you want to be in if you are hit on the highway?

All of the plans have a catastrophic coverage limit — the amount you will have to pay before it takes over — but some are higher than others.

Retirees need to figure out if they want, need and can afford Medicare Part B. Some do, some don't. How do you know which one is right for you? Listen up...

Walton Francis, the expert on the federal health-insurance program is my guest this morning at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show.

Francis is the author of Checkbooks' Guide to Federal Health plans. Both the online and print version have become the Bible for federal and postal workers and retirees looking for the best coverage. Premiums change each year, as do benefits. You need to know about those changes to make an informed choice.

Spend a little time shopping and you can save $1,000 to $2,000 per year in premiums and maybe a lot more than that in out-of-pocket costs.

Petraeus problems, sequestration, postal woes

In the second half of today's Your Turn radio show, Federal Times reporter Sean Reilly talks about the fall from grace of former CIA Director David Petraeus, the next step toward the fiscal cliff and the Postal Service's battle to survive.

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.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

A man with facial scars is more attractive to women — but only in the short-term. Also, women prefer scars "that suggest violence or trauma rather than acne or chicken pox."

(Source: Harper's)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Confusion forces OPM to update closure announcements
The Office of Personnel Management is changing how it refers to the operating status of the government. Now when federal offices are closed due to weather or other emergencies, OPM will use the terminology, "Federal offices are closed. Federal employees required to work should follow their agency's policies."

Cabinet Tracker - Who's in and who's out?
Federal News Radio's Cabinet Tracker follows which officials in the Obama administration plan to stay for the President's second term, who plans to go and potential successors.

Tips for Open Season 2013
Monday kicked off the start of Open Season, when federal employees have the opportunity to choose a new health plan. Federal benefits consultants Walton Francis and Ed Zurndorfer offer top tips for what to consider when making the switch.