Your health plan in jeopardy

OK, so you are a finalist on TV's "Jeopardy!" quiz show, but to win a million dollars, you must bet everything you've already won. It's all or nothing.

OK, here’s the deal. You are one of three semi-finalists in the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions. The winner will get $1 million. But to be that winner, you must bet — and very possibly lose — everything you’ve won so far. And the categories are:

• The children of Genghis Khan

• Favorite folk songs in Paraguay

• Your federal health plan

Which would you choose?

All three could be problematic for active and retired federal employees and postal workers. They have until Dec. 11 to pick their 2018 health plan. If they have a catastrophic event (medical or accident) next year, it would be the most important financial decision they have ever made. When it comes to the catastrophic limit (the amount you will have to pay out-of-pocket), some plans give you much greater financial protection than others.

If you are expecting or planning on having a baby, some of the health plans — many are HMOs — are better than others. Premiums are lower and you can always switch during the 2018 open season.

Do you know what a CD (consumer-driven) health plan is? What about an HD (high-deductible) plan? Why does health insurance expert Walton Francis recommend them? And why does he call them a Roth IRA on steroids? If you have a “good” medical year, they can pay for your premiums with money to spare, for you.

If it is just the two of you, should you get a family plan, a self-plus-one plan, or if you are both feds, two single plans? There are situations where one is a better deal than others.

If you are retired with Medicare Part A and B, you can suspend your Federal Employees Health Benefits plan, join a Medicare advantage plan and save lots of money. And come back into the FEHBP in the future. Why would you do that?

If you are joined at the hip to Blue Cross-Blue Shield (a favorite of feds and retirees and an excellent plan), take a look at the differences between its standard option and its basic option.

Most people will stay in the same plan they’ve been in for years. Maybe even decades. Francis, editor of the Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, says that’s a mistake. He says all of the plans are good, but some are wrong for you. Or too expensive for what they cover.

Francis will be my guest on today’s Your Turn radio show (10 a.m. ET). He’ll be answering questions sent in by listeners over the last two weeks. If you have one, fire it off to me (before showtime) at: The show will be archived on our Your Turn page, so you can listen later, or again. Or recommend it to a friend.

Health plans webinar today

Immediately after the radio show, Walt and I will change studios and take part in a webinar. It will begin around 11 a.m. To sign up, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The answer is Art Fleming.

Source: Wikipedia

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