If you just began a civilian job in the Intelligence Community or at the departments of State, Defense or Homeland Security, you’re likely also considering your Federal Employee Health Benefits options. Interestingly, one of the many plans available caters exclusively to employees in those organizations.
In 1948, Compass Rose Benefits Group began providing insurance solutions to a small group of federal employees with very unique needs. Since then, Compass Rose has strategically expanded to a greater number of federal employees without losing that personal touch, said Sherri Hebert, vice president and chief operating officer of Compass Rose.
“Our mission has always been to support employees that protect our nation whether they work in the defense, security, intelligence or the diplomatic corps. They protect us, and we want to help them protect their health and well-being,” Hebert said. “We’ve expanded slowly on purpose because we don’t want to take on more members than we can handle. That matters because we want to continue to provide personalized services to our members based on their needs.”
Hebert — along with Joni Huber, director of health plan administration at Compass Rose — suggested that new federal employees take time to compare FEHB plans based on the likely health care needs of both themselves and their families.
They offered three factors that people should consider when evaluating federal health plans and shared the unique perspective that Compass Rose takes on each one.
FEHB Factor 1: Does your job require travel abroad?
Many people who work in DoD, DHS, State and IC organizations have long-term assignments abroad. Some must travel often — and on short notice. Both are factors to consider when comparing FEHB options, Hebert said.
If travel abroad is likely, then it’s critical to compare out-of-pocket and covered costs when overseas, she said.
“Not all of these federal employees go to big cities. They’re not always in London or Paris or Sydney. They very well might be somewhere very remote,” Hebert said. “But if something were to happen to them overseas, we cover it. They can go anywhere they need to go, anywhere in the world. And we’re going to cover them as if they were stateside in an in-network facility.”
“We place a high priority on getting people reimbursed as quickly as possible, depositing their funds directly into their banking accounts,” she said.
FEHB Factor 2: What are your health care needs today and in the months ahead?
There are more than 250 plans, but everyone should “take the time to use the OPM comparison tool and see what the premium is for a plan versus what you’re getting for that premium,” Huber advised.
Thinking about benefits you may need over the course of the year and comparing costs across FEHB plans can be helpful. For example, if you are planning to have a baby, look for plans with 100% maternity care and childbirth classes. Keep in mind potential co-pays too, they can add up. The OPM tool is a great place to start.
“There are certain things that we cover at 100%, like maternity care, wellness visits, and most immunizations,” she shared as examples.
FEHB Factor 3: Consider the customer service of the FEHB carriers as you compare plans too?
OPM offers access to a wide range of health insurance providers through the FEHB program — household name providers, regional providers, small providers, large providers and everything in between.
The plan with the lowest cost might not be the best choice, Hebert noted, especially if it does not cover the health care needs you’re likely going to have in the next year. “Take a step back and ask, ‘What do I need from my health plan?’ ” she suggested.
In addition to comparison shopping based on expected care needs, Huber suggested also considering a few other things.
For instance, what types of digital and customer service capabilities are offered? Compass Rose provides digital tools to help its members stay healthy, Huber said. Plus, its customer care team will often step in to advocate for members if there are care or billing concerns, she added.
“If someone finds themselves in a situation where they’re seen out of network, need to be taken by ambulance or have an emergency surgery with an out-of-network doctor, we can step in if they receive high-balance bill,” Huber said. “We have been very successful working on behalf of our members to get those charges written off.”
Added Hebert, Compass Rose focuses on creating a community feel for its members: “We’re not a large plan, but we have a large plan, meaning we have a huge network of providers available to members through the UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus network. But you are a Compass Rose member, and we are honored to serve you.”