Another disappointing selfie?

Ever take a selfie you didn't like? Senior Correspondent Mike Causey says lots of active and retired feds are disappointed with their selfie health plan’s pre...

For the second year since it was born, the self-plus-one option of the federal health plans has not lived up to expectations.

For years, advocates of the option, midway between the self-only and the self-and-family option argued that couples without children or dependents were getting the shaft. Why should they pay the same group rate premiums as a family of five or 10?

The chief advocates of the selfie plan were young, childless couples or retirees who benefited from family plan rates while their children were dependents, but who are now back to being just a couple.

Critics of the self-plus-one plan said it would be the equivalent of tailoring premiums in a group plan by carving out another category.

Other critics of the selfie said that despite all the hope and hype, premiums in the self-plus-one options would differ little from the regular family plans. It would all depend, they said, on how many people, and what kind of people (the old, the ill, the heavy-users) moved into one of the self-plus-one plans.

Last year was the first time the government offered the selfie option to workers. The fact that there was so little difference in premiums between the self-plus-one and family plans shocked and angered some people. Many thought that things would be different in 2017. Wrong!

For instance: The plans and options offered by Blue Cross-Blue Shield are the most popular in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Especially with retirees, which is worth noting.

Next year the total premium for the BC-BS standard self-only plan will be $327.66 biweekly. (The government will pay $221.67 of that premium leaving the single employee to pay $105.99 biweekly. Single retirees will pay the same premium, but on a monthly basis).

The self-plus-one option in the BC-BS plan will be a total of $716.56 (with the government paying $475.79 of that amount and the employee paying $240.77). By contrast, the premiums in the self-plus family plan will be only a little more: A total of $726.74 every two weeks with the government paying $505.22 and the employee paying $254.23 biweekly. That savings from the selfie to the self and family will be about $7 per week. Better than nothing, to be sure, but not the big bucks savings many had predicted and planned on.

In many plans, the difference between the selfie premium and the family plan is about a dollar a week.

A long-time observer of the FEHBP said the small differences in the self-plus-one and family options is no surprise. Plans with lots of older employees and retirees tend to have greater expenses and pay out more, he said.

Each year only about 6 of every 100 people in the FEHBP switch plans. That’s despite massive advertising from the carriers, and an expensive government program to inform employees. Most retirees tend to stick with the same plan year-after-year. Many younger, healthier workers, shop around and switch plans every year.

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