Dodging a $100,000 Bullet

*** Christmas Eve Off ***

It’s official. Most nonemergency executive branch employees will get an extra day off on December 24th. That’s the Monday before Christmas.

President Bush signed the executive order yesterday.

In mid-August we began a compassionate nagging campaign to remind how previous president’s have acted in similar situations. Obviously it, or something, worked.

This will be a boon for millions of feds in hundreds of cities, and for local merchants. The fact that it was announced early will make it easier for people to plan time off, trips, etc.

For the history of Christmas Eve’s past, and the start of our campaign, click here.


Would you walk out in a violent electrical storm even if the odds of being hit by lightening were “only” one or two percent?

If those were odds for hitting a $5 million lottery jackpot that would one thing. But the same odds of receiving a searing hot electrical jolt are not so good. But those are about the odds of your being hit with medical bills next year in excess of $100,000. Not high, but . . .

The above is an on-steroids example of the dilemma folks face each year when they pick their health plan for the coming year. Many — if not most — people will have minimal medical bills in 2008.

The “average” is $1,000 for kids, $4,000 for a young adult and $11,000 for people over 65. Average means some few will have much higher bills and others will have no bills at all.

When it comes to health insurance coverage and options the federal employee health benefits program (FEHBP) is the gold standard. Feds are lucky in that respect. The government will pay more than 70 percent of their total premium. They have dozens of choices. They can’t be refused coverage for any reason. And they can keep their coverage (at the same premiums paid by younger people in the same plans) when they retire. And now they can also elect to open a Flexible Spending Account (to pay uncovered medical costs), or pick up optional dental and/or vision insurance.

The biggest problem facing many feds is all the choices. And the fact that they have nearly one-month to decide. The immediate problem is that that open enrollment window closes December 10th.

That’s Monday.

This is sort of the last call.

If you do nothing you will remain in your current health plan next year. That’s better than no coverage at all, but it’s possible with a little shopping you could save a couple thousand dollars. If you do nothing and you have the optional or dental coverage you will remain in it. But if you are in a Flexible Spending Account arrangement (most people should be) you need to renew it for next year. Otherwise you will be dropped.

Special Deals for Special Feds

The FEHBP also has special plans for CIA folks, Defense civilians, those with Foreign Service missions or who are involved in Homeland Security or law enforcement. And for Rural Letter Carriers too.

Agency or occupation-specific plans are often very good providing special benefits that are important to people in high stress jobs. Or benefits that address special family problems.

Most CIA people probably know about the Association plan. It was set up for them.

Among the fee-for-service plans (Blue Cross, GEHA, NALC, APWU) the premiums employees pay for coverage are in the mid-range.

A single individual enrolling in the Assocation plan during the current open season will pay about $1,510 in premiums next year. That is his or her cost after the government’s pays its share (about 72 percent) of the total premium.

By contrast, that same CIA employee going into GEHA standard, APWU’s consumer-driven plan, Mail Handlers’ value plan or Blue Cross basic would pay anywhere from $530 (Mail Handlers) to $870 for GEHA standard or around $1020 in premiums for Blue Cross basic.

There are also plans available to FBI and DEA personnel (SAMBA), a plan for people in Foreign Service jobs at State, AID, Defense and Agriculture. And a plan for rural carriers. If you are eligible for any of them, check them out. They’ve been tailored for you and they may be a good fit.

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