If you are like most federal workers and retirees the health insurance open season that ended earlier this month was just a big yawn. Although the government spent a ton of money getting information out to the 4 million folks covered by the federal health program, only a handful of people, about 6 percent, changed plans or options.
Most federal agencies subscribed to the “Consumer Checkbook’s Guide to Federal Health Plans” so that workers could shop at the office. It allowed them to compare benefits and premiums from among 20 to 30 choices and find out if their favorite doctor(s) will be in their plans network in 2019. Still, most people did nothing.
But there will another individual open season next year if you have a qualifying life event. That means if something changes big time in your life, your family status or even your address you will qualify for your own open season.
QFIs include things such as getting married, having or losing a child, getting divorced, or being widowed. Or, if you are in a Health Maintenance Organization, you can switch plans if you move out of its geographic area of coverage.
For example, a couple with a self-plus-one plan has a baby can switch to family coverage which, in most plans, costs about the same or just a little more than the S+1 option. People can also go to a self-only plan if their spouse dies or they divorce. People with a family plan can switch S+1, or to two self-only plans if their dependent child ages out of coverage, or gets his or her own coverage.
The bottom line is the open season is over. But it can come back for you if you have a QFI. If you do, obviously we hope it’s a good one. But whether it is a good thing or not so good its nice to have the option.