Belt & suspenders: The $1,200 question

Monday - 3/24/2014, 2:00am EDT

If you have $1,200 to burn each year, or if you are in perfect health and likely to stay that way forever, you can skip this. If not...

It might pay you to read on. Here's the deal:

If they live long enough, most Americans will be eligible for Medicare.

Because of their excellent health coverage in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the Medicare decision can be tougher for active and retired feds. That's "tougher" in a good way.

Medicare Part A, which is "free," covers hospitals. Medicare Part B, which has a premium, covers certain medical costs. Part B premiums now run about $104 per month for most people. They go up each year. You can sign up or not.

The decision to take or reject Medicare Part B, the to-be-or-not-to-be question, is complicated for members of the federal family because of the excellent coverage provided by their FEHBP plans.

Walton Francis, editor of Consumer Checkbook's Guide to Federal Health Plans for feds, said "the FEHBP alone is a better bargain than Medicare alone."

But how about Medicare Part B and the FEHBP?

Last week, we got an email from Theresa at the IRS. She has Blue Cross- Blue Shield (the most popular FEHBP plan). She asked if, when she retires, she should sign up for part B.

I told her that being a belt-and-suspenders type, I would sign up for both for the almost total coverage — just in case. But I promised to pass it on to a real expert, David Snell of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees. His response:

"Your response to the listener is the right one. I usually throw out this question: If you wake up the morning of your 65th birthday, do you need twice as much health insurance than you did the night before? If not, if you are only using your federal coverage for routine exams and tests up until you turn age 65, why pay another $1,200 or more (depending on your income) for duplicate medical coverage under Part B.

"Certainly if your medical condition requires more extensive and frequent medical treatment, or, if as you say Mike, you will sleep better knowing you have complete coverage for any medical possibility, then it would be worth enrolling in Part B. If you decide to enroll in Part B, then help your out-of- pocket expenses by looking at other FEHBP plans that are less expensive. By law, Medicare coverage is primary when you retire, so your FEHBP plan basically acts as a Medi-gap plan — with the important exception of prescription drug coverage which Part B does not include."


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Mr. Clean's full name is "Veritably Clean." He was so christened thanks to a "Give Mr. Clean a First Name" promotion in 1962, five years after his image first graced Procter and Gamble's household cleaning products.

(Source: Procter and Gamble, H/T Buzzfeed)


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