Does your health plan pass the BS test?

Many people believe that the leading export of Washington D.C. is BS rhetoric and data. BS being the short-hand for the mysterious, hard-to-pin down “Bureau of Stuff.” Which in D.C. shorthand is BS. Many claim it’s very existence a myth. Others say it is more powerful than the Pentagon or State Department.

Anyway, according to the latest projection there is minimum 20% chance you are in the wrong health plan. And that you are very likely paying more than necessary in premiums. And, if you take the following health plan pop quiz, there’s an 80% chance that 50 percent of your answers will be incorrect. This is important because the federal health insurance hunting season runs through Dec. 14, and experts say many of you could save $1,000 to $2,000 in premiums next year if you spend a little time shopping during the FEHBP open season. This is especially true for retirees who may have been in the same health plan for years. So… is that BS or fact from more reliable sources? Ready for the quiz? Answer each question either yes or no.

  1. For a couple without dependent children, it is almost always better to buy a self-plus one plan vs. a family package?
  2. If you’re a fed who’s covered by your private sector spouses’ health plan, could you be forced to spend an extra 5 years in government?
  3. The standard option of most health plans usually provides better coverage than the “basic” option which has lower premiums?
  4. There are circumstances where suspending, not cancelling, your FEHBP coverage pays off?
  5. There are plans in the FEHBP that actually pay your premiums and give you money for a savings account or to invest in the stock market?
  6. Can non-postal workers join plans sponsored by postal unions, and if so, should they?
  7. Basically all you need to know about a health plan is whether your doctor or doctors are in network?
  8. Some plans have a much lower disputed claims record than other plans. Is that true, and if so, does it matter?
  9. Health insurance expert Walton Francis (editor of Checkbook’s Guide to Federal Health Plans) talks about certain plans which he says are the equivalent of a Roth-IRA On Steroids. But they are only for young, health workers?

Answers: 1. No — 2. Yes — 3. No — 4. Yes — 5. Yes — 6. Yes — 7. No — 8. Yes — 9. No

So how’d you do? Get more right than wrong? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. There are lots of moving parts in deciding which of the health plans (30 to 40 in the D.C. area) to pick. Nationwide most other feds, retirees or survivors are eligible to join 20 or more plans. With no restrictions. Uncle Sam pays most of the tab: 70-75%. Applicants can’t be rejected because of age, preexisting condition or any other reason. If, because of serious accident or disease, you get close to the catastrophic limit of your current health plan, you can simply switch to another plan and start all over again. If your doctor moves from one plan or network, you can move with them. If dental or prescription benefits improve in one plan, you can move to it during the open season. But a little shopping is necessary.

Which is why we’re calling on Walton Francis to again be our guest on Your Turn, streaming live here or on the radio in the D.C. area at 1500 AM every Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST. He’ll talk about what you should be looking for, and what to avoid, while navigating the open season. Walt spent many years in a top job at the Department of Health and Human Services. No BS data in his knowledge base. Just facts. He’s also been a consultant for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And for more than four decades, he’s edited the Guide to Health Plans, which is also on-line and available free to many federal workers. Francis says many feds and retirees can save a bundle of money simply by comparing three or four plans over the next few weeks. The show will also be archived so you can listen later. If you have questions, email them to me before showtime.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

On April 11, 1803, while negotiating to purchase New Orleans, LA, from the French for $10 million, the U.S. delegation headed by Robert R. Livingston is dumbfounded to be offered the 828,800 square mile “Louisiana Purchase” instead for $15 million. Livingston accepts without consulting President Thomas Jefferson to prevent Napoleon from rescinding the offer.

Source: Census Bureau Fast Facts

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THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN TICKER

Nov 24, 2020 Close Change YTD*
L Income 22.0571 0.0859 1.01%
L 2025 10.9309 0.0933 -
L 2030 37.8065 0.396 0.12%
L 2035 11.2520 0.129 -
L 2040 42.1930 0.5257 -0.21%
L 2045 11.4698 0.1525 -
L 2050 24.9313 0.3528 -0.56%
L 2055 11.9090 0.2044 -
L 2060 11.9090 0.2043 -
L 2065 11.9092 0.2043 -
G Fund 16.4941 0.0004 0.82%
F Fund 21.1120 -0.0216 6.30%
C Fund 54.0324 0.8602 2.69%
S Fund 69.1067 0.9263 3.97%
I Fund 34.0506 0.7193 -10.53%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.