Your health plan: Good & bad news

As often happens in life there are times when you have to make important choices and that involves both good news and bad news. And sometimes they are the same.

Like right now, during the health insurance open season which runs through Dec. 10.

People who do nothing — those who ignore the open season and don’t look for premium or benefit changes — will remain in their current plan. Even though its premiums may be going up, your favorite doctors (may) not be in the same network next year and your plan could drop or modify some important-to-you coverage.

The good news is that federal and postal workers and retirees in the metro Washington area have up to 30 plans and options to choose from. The bad news is that federal and postal workers and retirees in the metro Washington area have up to 30 plans and options to choose from.

Yes that was redundant. The truth is, the bad news is the good news: Too many choices. Paralysis by analysis.

Checking the 20 or 30 health plan brochures, premiums and network lists is not most people’s idea of a good time. Which is why 96 of every 100 people in the federal employee health benefits program (FEHBP) sleepwalk through open season. They stay in the same plan year-after-year even though there are other plans available that would give them equal or better coverage at a lower premium. Some HD (high deductible) plans even give policy-holders a savings account they can invest wherever they like.

The FEHBP plan is considered the best in the nation. The government pays the lion’s share (72 to 75 percent) of the total premium. Preexisting conditions, age, habits, don’t matter. They aren’t an issue.  If you are planning to have a baby, you can leave your current plan and move into one that has the best maternity benefits (like infertility treatments).

Next year during the open season you can move back to your old plan (or another one). It’s the best employer-backed health plan in the nation. And most federal agencies pay for the online version of Checkbook’s Guide to Health Plans For Federal Employees. It’s free and you can do it at the office.

Between now and the end of the open enrollment period we’ll have a series of best-buy columns based on Checkbook’s ratings. We’ll also be talking with Walton Francis (who literally wrote the book) each Wednesday during open season at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show.

You may be in the best plan for you. And the one with the best premiums. But you won’t know for sure unless you take some time to check your options. Not fun, but smart.

In some cases you can save $1,000 to $2,000 in premiums and out of pocket costs next year, if you get yourself going.

Good luck.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Steff Thomas

People were buried alive so often in the 19th century that inventors patented safety coffins that would give the “dead” the ability to alert those above ground if they were still alive.

Source: Wikipedia