Health insurance and the single life

Tuesday - 11/20/2012, 2:00am EST

Marriage is great. Where would we (you) be without it? How else would we be able to keep up with the doings of the Kardashians? But...

Joys of matrimony aside, two cannot live as cheaply as one. Sad but true.

This is especially true when it comes time to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, make the car payment and other pesky but necessary functions of financial life.

And don't forget health insurance.

Health insurance isn't cheap. Especially if you are part of that not-so-protected class: Federal workers who are about to go into their third year without a pay raise.

Premiums in many plans available to feds and retirees have gone up most years for most plans. A few have registered only modest increases. A couple have actually cut premiums.

Hunting for health insurance — a plan that provides maximum protection at affordable cost — isn't easy. But navigating the health insurance Open Season (it ends Dec. 10) is much easier if you are single than if you are married, especially if you have children. Finding the best plan means you must either multi-task and check out separate plans' brochures, run them by your doctor (making sure he or she will be in the plans' network next year), and making sure it has catastrophic coverage that will limit your out-of-pocket costs in case you have a disastrous medical year. Enter Checkbook's 2013 Guide to Health Plans. You can get it in book form or online. Many agencies subscribe to it for their employees. For a list, click here.

Checkbook author Walton Francis rates plans as best buys based on premiums plus your likely out-of-pocket costs. Of the HMOs for singles, Kaiser standard and high option, both top-rated, charge you $1,130 and $1,830 respectively in premiums. But if you have an "average" medical year, your total costs along with premiums would be $2,020 and $2,070.

Using the "average" medical year figure, CareFirst Blue Choice standard would be $2,260 and the high option $2,290.

Among the national plans (if you use their preferred providers), the average cost (premiums and out of pockets) next year would be the Foreign Service plan, $2,310; Blue Cross basic, $2,540; APWU high option, $2,720; Compass Rose, $2,840; GEHA standard, $2,880; NALC, $3,080; and SAMBA standard, $3,100.

In the consumer-driven and HD (high deductible) plans, Checkbook ranks APWU CDHP; GEHA HDHP; Aetna Health and HDHP and CareFirst HDHP as good buys. Checkbook says the consumer-driven and high-deductible plans offer employees "substantial savings over almost all traditional plans," and it says they have "loophole-free protections that are better than those in most traditional plans to protect policy holders against high costs."

It is important to note that even the most "expensive" plans in terms of premiums and out-of-pocket costs are still often good deals and in some cases cost only a few hundred dollars a year more than those rated best-buys. So check it out. And enjoy the single life.

Columns coming up will feature best buys for postal workers, retirees, couples and people with small and large families, and older workers and retirees with and without Medicare Part B.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Dominoes and "Star Wars" action figures are the latest inductees to the Toy Hall of Fame, according to UPI. The winning toys beat out the Magic 8 Ball, Twister and Lite-Brite.


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