Are you overpaying for health insurance? Probably

If wasting a couple-thousand dollars next year is no big deal to you, you can skip this.

If wasting a couple-thousand dollars next year is no big deal to you, you can skip this. But if you’d be interested in saving $1,000-$2,000 on your federal health plan in 2020, read on.

Walton Francis, who literally wrote the book on the federal health program said that many, many workers and retirees are paying too much because of the plan they are in. And with a little shopping they could save a bundle and still get excellent coverage.

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program is considered the finest employer-provided health package in the country. Workers, retirees and their spouses and survivors are eligible for 20-30 plans. That includes national plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, GEHA, APWU and NALC as well as hundreds of local HMOs. People in the same plans pay the same premiums whether they are 22-year-old marathoners or 100-year-olds in assisted living. Nobody can be turned down because of age, sex, pre-existing conditions or personal lifestyle. The government pays anywhere from 70%-75% of the total premium whichever plan you choose. If you approach your plan’s lifetime limit you can simply switch plans during the annual open season. This year that is Nov. 11 through Dec. 9.

Although the government spends a lot of time and money helping employees shop for insurance, most don’t bother. Many agencies pay for the online Consumer’s Checkbook Guide To Health Plans for Federal Employees and encourage staff to shop at work. Members of Congress sponsor health plan fairs. Many organizations and unions representing active and retired feds encourage members to shop around. We’ll be nagging you over the next few weeks but the bottom line is only about six of every 100 people switch plans. Walt Francis said the number should be much higher, especially among retirees.

So what are some signs that you may be paying more than you need to?

  • Have you been in the same plan for five years or more?
  • Have you been in the same plan since you joined the government, or retired?
  • Do you get the most expensive high-option plan because it’s got to be the best?
  • Do you have no idea what the catastrophic limit is in your plan?
  • Do you have no clue what a catastrophic limit is, other than it doesn’t sound good?
  • Are you unsure of how many other (maybe less expensive FEHBP) plans include your favorite doctor in their network?
  • Do you know the difference in drug coverage between different plans?

Many people in the private sector have the same problem but for different reasons. In many companies workers are offered just a few very limited plans. Their employer may pay a small portion of the premium, but not like the lion’s share Uncle Sam routinely picks up.

Many people use the old paralysis-by-analysis cop out. That is, there are simply too many choices, so they do nothing. But there are ways to narrow down your shopping list to just three or four plans — then shop, then save.

We will kick off our open season nagging today at 10 a.m. EST on our Your Turn radio show. You can listen on or at 1500 AM in the D.C. area. Also the show is archived on our website so you can listen later, listen again and refer it to a friend.

If you have questions for Walt please send them to me before show time:

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Technically, it was illegal for women to wear pants in Paris until 2012. Though long-ignored, a more than 200-year-old law imposed in 1800 had required women to get local police approval to “dress like a man” and wear trousers, as a way of preventing them from doing certain jobs. The law was modified in 1892 and 1909 to allow women to wear trousers if they were “holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” During the French Revolution, some Parisian women became known as “sans-culottes” for wearing trousers instead of the silk-knee breeches preferred by the bourgeoisie.

Source: BBC

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