If you put 10 different federal workers, from 10 different agencies and 10 different cities in the same room, odds are six of them (at least) will be in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield health plan.
If you do the same thing with a random group of retired feds — again from 10 different agencies and 10 different cities — odds are eight of them, at least, will be in Blue Cross-Blue Shield too. Maybe more.
So is that a good thing? For some yes. For others, the answer is no.
The Government Accountability Office says that in 2015, Blue Cross-Blue Shield was the primary insurance carrier for federal workers and retirees in most of the nation’s counties. BC-BS was the largest carrier in 98 percent of the counties in 2015, according to GAO. So, are we detecting a pattern here? And if so, what does it mean?
Probably something. Just not entirely sure what. Unless …
Unless it could be that so many so-called “heavy users” — usually older retirees taking lots of medicine — are heavily concentrated into one plan, meaning younger, healthier workers in the same plan are probably paying more than they need to pay in premiums. And, with the health insurance open season coming up next week, the 94 percent who don’t change plans every year need to get on the stick.
Each year, Uncle Sam provides a lengthy and costly open season when workers, retirees, survivors and in some cases ex-spouses can review their health insurance coverage for the coming year. Many federal agencies even subscribe to an online service (Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees) that employees can use while on the clock. Yet year after year, only six of every 100 people switch plans.
Most years, a few new plans are added to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. GAO, whose employees are also covered by it too, said the number of plans has been growing. But rather than adding more and more plans, maybe workers and retirees should check out the options they already have. In many cases, they can get the same, sometimes even better, coverage for a lower premium. So, are more plans the answer?
The people who do shop around tend to be younger, generally healthier workers. They look for good coverage at a low premium and often — because of their age and health — they don’t cost their insurance company much.