Time to commit an unnatural act?

Is now — this week — the time for even the most cautious, conservative fed to commit an unnatural act? Maybe his or her first, at least since joining the government.

One problem is many feds apparently don’t know that they can do it. Or how or why they should give it a go. Or if it is worth the trouble and possible risk. Short answer, for at least 30-40 percent of the federal population, is, “Yes! It could actually be fun, liberating and save you a couple of thousand dollars next year. Maybe even make you money. And it doesn’t involve selling your soul to the devil.

The unnatural act, in this case, involves taking direct action over your 2017 health plan, benefits and premiums. All it involves is doing a little comparison shopping and premium checks to see if you need to change health plans.

According to the pros, too many federal workers, postal employees and especially retirees are paying too much (in premiums) for what they get back in coverage. But shopping for health insurance is, for most feds, an unnatural act. Only about 6 percent of all those eligible commit to it — that is change plans each open season — even though the government spends a ton of money making it easier to shop. Many agencies subscribe to the online version of Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees and Annuitants and encourage employees to shop, on the clock, for the best deal. To see if yours is on the free-to-you list, click here.

The current health insurance hunting season ends Dec. 12. That’s next Monday. So while you still have plenty of time, the clock is ticking.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s standard and basic health options are the most popular in the federal employees’ benefits program. It covers nearly 9 million current and retired feds and their survivors and dependents. It’s considered the best employer-backed health plan in the nation. The government picks up an average of 72 percent of the total premium (75 percent for some postal workers). People in the Washington-Baltimore area have about 30 plans and options to shop from.

While the Blue Cross standard option is the Cadillac of the group, maybe a lower cost Chevy-style plan (Blue Cross basic) would be just as good for you. At a much lower premium.

Some examples: For low-premium self-only plans, Checkbook rates Kaiser (standard and high option), CareFirst HDHP, Aetna Open Access Basic, UnitedHealth Choice Plus, Innovation Health (Northern Virginia) and UnidtedHealthCare Choice as good buys with your share of the premium being less than $2,000 (in some cases much less) next year. Of the national, fee for service plans, Checkbook lists the APWU and NALC Consumer Driven plans as best buys, along with GEHA’s High Deductible, and both the Aetna Direct and Aetna Health Fund CD and HD plans.

The ratings are similar for self-plus-one plans and family plans. Only the premiums are higher.

Paying a high premium doesn’t guarantee you the best coverage. You can often get the same deal at a much lower premium. By the same token, there are people with medical situations who want, need and benefit from being in higher premium plans. So how do you know?

Listen to our Your Turn radio show today at 10 a.m. EST. This will be the final show in our series on best-buys for feds. The only guest will be Walton Francis, author of the Checkbook guide. You can email questions that we (that is he) will answer on the air. If you miss the show — or earlier shows on Medicare, making your health plan pay you and other subjects — they are archived on the Your Turn page so can listen anytime. Or tell a friend. But whatever you do, at least consider doing something. And listen today. Federalnewsradio.com or 1500 AM.

Once you get that unnatural act under your belt, and learn how to make your health plan pay you in some cases, it should be easier next time. But you have to start somewhere and this week is it.

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Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The Legion of Doom, led by Lex Luthor, debuted in the first episode of “Challenge of the Super Friends,” which aired Sept. 9, 1978. The group of super-villains routinely plotted world domination, as they battled the Super Friends.

Source: Wikipedia