Many federal employees and retirees right now might be caught up figuring out what health, vision and dental plans are right for them for 2024.
While they’re at it, it’s common for many feds to start thinking about their broader insurance needs too, said Shane Canfield, CEO of WAEPA.
That’s exactly this reason that Open Season is the busiest time of year for the long-time federal life insurance provider.
“You’re opening the door to health insurance where you’re thinking about deductibles and co-pays and networks — that’s a huge financial decision,” Canfield said during Federal News Network’s 2024 Open Season Exchange. “But why not look at your entire financial plan? Life insurance is always a part of that.”
Unlike gradually rising premiums in other types of insurance, WAEPA’s rates have not gone up in 80 years. There are many variations of life insurance, but WAEPA is somewhat unique in its offerings since it’s available solely to current and former federal civilian employees. That helps keep the rates down, while also making the insurance plans more stable and predictable, Canfield said.
“That in turn allows us to do something we’ve done for 27 of the last 28 years — we return a piece of the premium to individuals in the plan. It’s one of our differentiators,” he said.
What feds should consider for life insurance
Similar to how federal employees and retirees might look at their individual situations to determine what coverage they’ll need in their health insurance plans the coming year, life insurance can be individualized as well.
When determining exactly how much life insurance someone might need, Canfield said one way to think about it is to combine two separate buckets. One bucket is the cost of any debts an individual has — such as from credit cards and mortgages — and the other bucket is the cost of lost income over the rest of an individual’s career.
Still, a person’s needs for life insurance are susceptible to change over time.
Canfield used himself as example: “I’m an empty nester. My insurance needs are very different as my bills are paid down and my mortgage is paid off. I don’t have the same needs for life insurance than I did when I had a couple of kids at home and a big mortgage.”
Recent changes to WAEPA’s offerings
To adapt to changes over time and as a hedge against rising inflation, WAEPA now offers an automatic benefit increase.
“Over a 10-year period of time, if you sign up for it — and there’s no cost to sign up for it — the death benefit will increase in increments of $25,000 every year automatically with no underwriting,” Canfield said.
Although Open Season is WAEPA’s busiest time of year, there is still a lot of business that happens all year long.
“If there’s a need for life insurance, if you do an evaluation in the middle of the spring or the summer and you recognize you need more, you do not need to wait for a waiver,” Canfield said. “You can apply whenever you want to change the amount you have.”
And in 2022, WAEPA overhauled its online application system for most applicants to make it more efficient, he said. Rather than taking two or three weeks for individuals to see if they qualify for coverage, most will now be able to get an answer in 15 minutes.
“COVID ushered in a change — people want things faster, quicker, easier,” Canfield said. “We spent an awful lot of time making sure that we got this right.”
To discover more insights and advice shared during the 2024 Open Season Exchange, visit the event page.