Welcome to your mid-life crisis … again

Each fall, millions of American workers (especially federal government employees) are thrown into mid-life crisis. They have to make decisions about their benefits package (if they are lucky enough to have benefits) for the coming year. They must decide whether they need life insurance, and if so, how much?

Unlike many workers who have one or two health plan choices, federal and postal employees and retirees (and their survivors) have a dozen or more health plan choices. They range from managed care Health Maintenance Organizations to fee-for-service plans, like Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Not making a decision is, in itself, a decision.

Despite the time, money and effort put into getting health plan information to government workers, only about six of every 100 makes a change each year. Many people cling to the same old health plan year after year, even if its premiums have gone up and they could get equal or better coverage with a different plan.

Many, if not most, of those who never change health plans are older retirees with higher medical costs. They are known in the insurance business as “heavy users” and large numbers of them in any plan can and do drive premiums up.

The health insurance open season runs from mid-November through early December. The open enrollment period for FEGLI (the federal group life plan) covers the entire month of September.

During both open seasons, Federal News Radio will have a series of columns, news stories, radio shows and webinars featuring experts like Walton Francis from Consumers Checkbook and David Snell from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees. The idea is to help you find the best fit for you at the lowest cost. Doing nothing could be the most costly mistake you make this year.

Today at 10 a.m., on our Your Turn radio show, I’ll be talking with Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller about the Pathways Programs and how four years later, the impact the internship and recruitment initiatives are having on agencies.

Then, Federal News Radio’s Meredith Somers joins me to discuss the upcoming health and life insurance open seasons. She’ll talk about what to look for, what to avoid and things you should know and consider (about yourself and your family) when taking out life insurance or picking a health plan.

Picking a plan simply because its premiums are low could open you up to higher deductibles, and mean bigger out-of-pocket costs in the event of a major accident or illness in 2017. By the same token, buying Cadillac-coverage in a plan with high premiums could be a waste of money. Here’s a preview of the open seasons:

Unless you settle in a retirement community or condo limited to former government workers there’s a good chance that when you retire in 10, 20 or 30 years from now, you could be the richest person on the block. Regardless of the debate about federal pay (too high or two low) the fact is that down the road civil servants will be part of that shrinking group of people who have employer-sponsored pension plans.

The worst thing you can do during the open seasons is what many of us do best: Nothing!

Nearly Useless Factoids In Action: One of the most popular features of this column is the NUF (nearly useless factoid) cranked out daily by my editor, Michael O’Connell. In the best traditions of American journalism ethics, I say, “Thank you” and take credit whenever anybody emails or calls to say they like the day’s NUF. When they complain, I quickly refer them to the true author, Mike O., and let him deal with them.

So, do you like the feature? Do you wonder how he does it? Where he gets the ideas? How about the research? Got any suggestions?

Listen to Mike, Meredith and Mike today at 10 a.m. EDT (or at federalnewsradio.com) for an open season preview and the inside story on NUF. If you have questions or comments you can send them to me before the show: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The word “Jai-Alai” means “merry festival” in Basque.

Source: Guinness World Records

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