2019 health premiums: Disappointing selfies

Young couples without children and older couples whose kids have flown the coop are disappointed again with the new 2019 premiums for their favorite health plan.

Both age groups flocked to the new self-plus-one option when it was first approved hoping to save the much bigger bucks charged by self-plus family plans.  Instead, there would be little to no different between a selfie and a family plan — as the experts predicted.

Next year, the popular Blue Cross-Blue Shield standard self-plus-one plan (covering up to two people) will have a biweekly premium of $256.54, while the self-plus family option, which could cover a dozen or more family members, will charge $268.21 in premiums. While that is a welcome if slight drop in premiums, the plans charged this year ($1.27 less for the self plan, $3.74 less for the family plan) it is not what many people expected.

Blue Cross’ basic plan next year will charge $170.57 biweekly for its self-plus-one plan and $177.24  for those who need its family plan. The government share of the total premium will rise to $525.32 for the family plan and $492.27 for the selfie.

So why are folks in the Brady Bunch (larger family) category paying almost the same as those in a plan covering only a couple and one child? Short answer: Usage.

For decades feds — young and old — demanded that Congress give them a plan (self-plus-one) in addition to the self-only and family plans. They argued it was unfair for a couple, often very young or very old, to have to pay the same premiums as a household with lots of kids. But experts disagreed.

They said that once people got used to having three options, a larger number of older workers and retirees — known in the trade as “heavy users” because of their age-related health issues — would migrate to the self-plus-one options and that they would have to re-adjust rates upward.

David Snell, former benefits director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees and a former official at the Office of Personnel Management, said that in four or five years there would be little or no difference in the family and self-plus one plans.

Some experts say that as more older workers and retirees move into self-plus-one plans, the day could come when they will pay slightly higher premiums than those paid by the bigger, but younger and healthier people in family plans.

For a look at all the premium changes in all of the nationwide fee-for-service plans covering most non-postal workers and retirees, — and you can compare rates for 2018 and 2019 as well as look at the self-only, family and self-plus one plan premiums — take a look at the charts released by the Office of Management and Budget: Non-Postal Premium Rates Charts.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Steff Thomas

In 1883, the City of New York passed a Tariff Act that placed a special tax on imported vegetables.  The John Nix & Co. company filed a lawsuit against Edward Hedden, a collector on the port of New York, to recover back-taxes paid under protest. The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court. It was in the Supreme Court hearing Nix v. Hedden that the tomato was re-classified as a vegetable, and not a fruit.

Source: Wikipedia