Interested in a health plan that would give you $1,000 to $2,000 a year for staying healthy? Which health plans pay some or all of your Medicare Part B premium?
Do a little home now — the health insurance hunting season ends Dec. 9 — and save thousands of dollars next year. The savings may come in the form of an IRA-on-steroids offered by some high deductible health plans (HDHPs), or from choosing a plan which will pay some or in many cases all of your Medicare Part B premium.
Walton Francis, editor of “Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees” says the IRA on steroids is available to workers who pick from one of several HDHPs or consumer-driven health care (CDHC) plans that will give you money each year to be used for medical services. Or, if not used, they can be rolled over into an account that earns interest. In some cases, he says, participants have built up five-figure accounts.
HDHPs, for example, offer two kinds of spending accounts: Health savings accounts which can grow in value — many people have $12,000-plus accounts, money you can keep even if you leave the plan; and health reimbursement arrangement plans (HRAs), which also offer accounts which terminate if you leave that plan. So how do they work and is one of them your best buy?
Knowing that the plans with the savings options exist is a first step. Don’t be wedded to your current, traditional plan just because you’ve been with it for years. Although it is torture for some, do some shopping. Start with the Checkbook Guide, either the online or print version which is available in many Washington, D.C.-area book stores and drugstores.
Also, check with your agency, union or professional association. Many have subscribed to the online version of Checkbook. Many agencies encourage workers to shop at the office because when workers pick lower premium plans the government, which pays two-thirds of the total premium, saves money. How do you know if your agency has subscribed for you? Click here for the list.
If not, you can actually pay for it yourself. Some items for your health plan checklist:
Know the five-year rule: Be sure you are enrolled in one of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program health plans for the five years prior to retirement. Otherwise you and your spouse could be left without insurance in retirement, or you could be forced to delay retirement for five years.
Know the difference between a fee-for-service plan and a local health maintenance organization. HMOs are great and generally have lower premiums. But if you want to go for treatment at the Mayo Clinic odds are they won’t pay.
Couples should crunch the numbers to determine if two single plans or a self-plus-one plan is the better deal. Consider deductibles as well as premiums.
If one partner is a working fed and the other a retired fed, who should pay the premium? Short answer — the working fed. Why? Taxes!
Should you wait until retirement to put your private sector spouse on your FEHBP plan? If you die first and he or she aren’t covered by your plan they won’t be eligible for FEHBP.
Listen to our Your Turn radio show today at 10 a.m. EST, either by tuning into 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. area or by listening live at www.federalnewsnetwork.com. Walton Francis is my guest and he’s got all the answers, including to questions you didn’t know should be asked about coverage for you and your family.
Feds in the Washington area have 40 bewildering plans and options to choose from. In other cities there are about 30 choices. Today’s show was prerecorded so we won’t be taking questions. But Walt will address the IRA-on-steroids issue and tell how you can find a plan that will let you buildup a cash nestegg while paying your Medicare Part B. premium in 2020.
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