As a kid did, you wake up one morning, open the window, sniff the air and think Mom and Dad had actually bought you a pony? Then you quickly grew up, after discovering the “pony” was a load of fertilizer that had been dumped on the lawn.
Now lots of disappointed feds and retirees feel like the kid who got a pile of manure rather than Rex the wonder horse.
Take the self-plus-one (S+1) health plan option. For years, childless couples, young and old, have complained about paying the same health insurance premiums FEHBP companies charge for large families. Many figured they could save big bucks. Although many experts said there would be little difference between a S+1 and a family premium, Congress authorized the program. Feds and retirees had the chance to go into the new option during last year’s November-December open season.
The problem, as many discovered, is there was very little difference in premiums in most cases. Blue Cross-Blue Shield is the most popular plan in the program. This year (2016) its S+1 premium for the basic plan is $4,180, while the family plan basic premium is $4,270. The standard-option premium is $6,010 for a couple or $6,190 for a family.
There are slightly bigger savings in some of the other FEHBP plans. But you have to look hard to find them.
Because of the confusion over premiums, the government has offered a limited enrollment (through Feb. 29) when workers can switch from a family plan to a self-plus-one plan. Retirees are included in the special enrollment period because they can switch from a family plan at any time.
During the open enrollment period, we’ll have a series of columns listing the pros and cons of making the switch. Meantime, here’s a rundown of the last record open season and the limited rules of engagement for this month’s limited signup session from Federal News Radio’s Meredith Somers.