Health Plan No Brainer!

The expression “no brainer” is probably one of the most over-used terms (along with “at-the-end-of-the-day”) among elites in the Washington’s area’s influential/pompus government-media-legal community.

That said (actually that’s another one!), virtually everybody in government has just a few hours left to consider a bona fide no-brainer: Should you get a Flexible Spending Account? Or if you have an FSA, should you renew it?

Either way you have just a few hours to act because the federal benefits Open Season (for most folks) is scheduled to end at close of business today.

There is an exception for Internal Revenue Service employees. The Service said that due to delays in mailing out health plan brochures, it will permit employees to enroll in the FEHBP program via Employee Express until December 31st. That extension applies to IRS employees only, and the extension does not cover the FSA or vision and dental insurance plans. Many thanks to reader Christine Eldridge for alerting us to this important decision by the IRS.

But Walton Francis, author of Checkbook’s Guide To Federal Health Plans says that while there is no one “best” plan for everybody, the decision to enroll in an FSA, for most feds, is at the end of the day a no-brainer. Benefits experts Tammy Flanagan, Ed Zurndorfer and others agree.

FSA’s permit you to pay for otherwise uncovered medical expenses (from deductibles to non-prescription drugs) with pre-tax dollars. In addition to the tax break, Francis says it means you are getting the equivalent of a discount of roughly 30 percent with each FSA purchase. You can setup an FSA account of anywhere from $250 to $5,000 via payroll deduction.

In addition to the FSA’s experts say that many people would also do well to consider an HSA which is a Health Spending Account. Experts say that just about any fed would benefit from having a Flexible Spending Account.

With an FSA, you set aside money via payroll deductions that you can use to pay many medical expenses not covered by your regular health insurance. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it deal, so unspent money in the account as of March 15th is lost to you.

With an HSA, (coupled with a High Deductible Health Plan) the health plans put money into an account for you. You can use it for medical expenses or keep it. And it accumulates year after year. HSA’s are best for young and/or very healthy people.

In either case, as with most things, it pays to know what you are doing. To have a plan. To have an estimate of what your likely medical expenses will be year to year. Of course, nobody can predict things like a stroke, heart attack, cancer or an accident. But having an FSA and/or an HSA may be the thing.

For more details, check www.fsafeds.com and OPM’s HSA page.

Quickly!!!

Christmas Eve Off

The White House decision to give nonemergency feds an extra day off, on December 24th is a good deal for most workers and for local merchants in lots of places. For the record, December 24th will be a day off. It is not considered a “holiday” because that would mean extra pay for feds designated as emergency employees who would be working anyhow. The bonus day off was not a sure thing. To check out past practice from our early (August) warning, click here.

New Year’s Holiday

Are feds also going to get the Monday before New Year’s Day off? Don’t even ask. It doesn’t work that way.

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