Check your health plan: Trust me!

Everybody should shop for, and maybe change, health plans each year. But most stay and wind up paying too much for coverage they could get elsewhere, at a lower...

A couple of weeks ago I missed a half-stair step at home. Just a tiny miss, but enough. Not recommended! I fell a short distance, but in that mini-second I managed to fracture two discs in the backbone. Again, not recommended!

As a young reporter, I’ve ridden in many ambulances, but always as a passenger. This time, as an aging columnist, I got to be the star of the show. Again, not recommended. But they did a fine job, as did the ER crew. Could have been much worse but it was pretty bad. Still is, but getting better. But you live and learn.

Depending on others for just about everything isn’t fun. But the support I’ve had, from adult children plus a part time physical therapist has been wonderful. I’m getting better every day, although I may skip the senior Olympics this fall. But I did learn some important lessons, including a reality check on health insurance.

In the private sector, in many cases, health insurance is modest, at best. And goes away, or the premiums go way up, when you retire. It is too expensive a perk for many places.

I’ve been lucky. My health coverage is through my union. We have several choices, and the benefits are good because they cover all dues-paying members. And the union bosses. Sort of like yours.

The FEHBP covers all current and retired feds. And survivors. Premiums don’t go up when you retire. And benefits don’t change. Most people have 20 to 30 choices each open season. They can pick a plan that includes their doctors. And one with special prescription drug benefits. Or one for a young healthy couple. Or new parents. Or the very old. Lots of choices. Same premium in each plan. Plus Uncle Sam pays 71-75% of the premium. What’s not to like?

Each open season (November through early December), we have a series of columns and Your Turn Radio shows (Wednesdays 10 a.m. ET) about the “best” heath plan choices for you. Walton Francis is our main guest, as he will be this year. He edits the Consumer Checkbook guide to federal health plans that comes out each open season. He advises that the most expensive plans aren’t always best for you. And that everybody should shop, and maybe change plans, each year. But most stay and wind up paying too much for coverage they could get elsewhere, at a lower premium. But whatever you do or don’t do, the one thing you should concentrate on is the plan’s catastrophic coverage. That is the maximum amount you will have to pay, out of pocket, if the worst happens. Like getting hit by a car. A major illness. Or, even, falling down half a flight of stairs.

Depending on the plan you pick, and are in now, your catastrophic coverage — your out of pocket — could be as low as $6,000. Or three times that amount.

Not much you can do about it now. But when open season comes you can and should shop around. And we’ll be there nag you!

Meantime thanks for the emails. Getting better, slowly, every day.

-Mike on the Mend

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Daisy Thornton

Since 2017, the most commonly changed name in the United States is Aiden, after accounting for misspellings.

Source: Washington Post

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