Traffic jam at retirement and insurance intersection?

Long time commuters in the Washington area have learned at least four things:

  • Patience and the ability to weep silently.
  • How to curse in several languages.
  • Hand signals that are not taught at Drivers Ed classes.
  • That there is always an accident, or roadwork, up ahead. Always!

The ability of feds to endure may be tested nationwide next month and in January. It’s possible that a large (maybe record) number of workers will put in their retirement papers and — for many for the first time — also decide to change their health plan.

December and January are favorite months for feds to retire. And this is late November. And although the long-predicted retirement tidal wave has yet to form, a huge number of employees are eligible to retire right now. If there is a surge, and if lots of people switch into the new self-plus-one (S+1) option, the Office of Personnel Management is going to be swamped. At a particularly bad time.

Last week, FederalNewsRadio’s Jason Miller reported that badly needed cyber upgrades to the Employee Express platform has created a traffic backlog.

The upgrade is the result of several major breaches of personal and official data at OPM and other agencies. Although people tiptoe around it, most people suspect China was behind at least one of-— and the major — breach that captured employee job titles, addresses and Social Security numbers. As a result, one OPM director resigned, Congress howled and the new cybersecruity effort was launched. That’s both the good and bad news. Good because it’s happening. Bad because it is happening now. The ever-present roadwork meets two important streams of traffic. With you in the drivers seat.

The Employee Express lets feds control their payroll/personnel information. They can make changes or updates. The long-predicted tsunami never hit, but outgoing traffic could pick up dramatically over the next couple of months. Whether it happens or not, OPM could (likely will) be hit by requests from tens of thousands of workers to switch health plans. Most years only five of every 100 feds and retirees change plans during the open season. This year, it ends Dec. 14.

But …

The new S+1 option is available. And while it isn’t as much of a bargain as some people anticipated, it will still be cheaper in most cases for a couple to sign up for that option and leave their current family plan. In many cases, it will save people a couple of hundred dollars per year. So, who’s looking at the new couples-only option? Two groups:

  • Younger feds who don’t have children.
  • Retired couples whose children (if any) have flown the nest. Both groups represent a big chunk of the nearly 9 million people covered by the government’s in-house health program.

Both groups tend to be people who normally stick with the same health plan but who, because of the new selfie option, may switch.

Washington area feds have 33 plans and options to chose from and, whichever plan they pick, the government will pay about 72 percent of the total premium.

A long-time expert on the federal health and retirement benefits program told Federal News Radio that the story about the Employee Express bottleneck “is devastating.” Also, he said he had it on “very good authority that the OPM landline for retirees is overwhelmed by calls.” We’ve heard the same from many retirees. The health and benefts insider said, “There is an impending disaster as millions of employees and retirees try to switch into self-plus-one” at roughly the same time.

So hold on. Your journey outside of government or into a new health plan option could take even longer than usual.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The black Interceptor, the car Mel Gibson drove in the first Mad Max movie, was supposed to be destroyed after filming was completed. However, someone rescued the car from the crusher. Producers tracked it down when work began on the second film in the series, Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior.

Source: IMDB

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