Premiums might occupy the top of the list of considerations when choosing among federal health insurance plans this open season. But astute insurance shoppers balance premiums against what might be call the total cost of ownership of a policy.
Sherri Hebert, chief operating officer of Compass Rose Benefits Group, advised people to factor in all of their potential out-of-pocket costs for a given plan not merely the premium rates.
“You can have a low premium, but a very high co-pay when you go to the doctor, and that can be a shock,” Hebert said during the Federal News Network Open Season Exchange 2022. “Although your premium might be low, you could have a very high deductible. So is that okay with you?”
Someone young and in good health might only see a doctor occasionally, so a higher co-pay would matter less. Those with children at home could wind up making constant doctor visits, so co-pays could add up.
“Those are all things that people should be looking at,” Hebert said, in addition to the full coverage benefits. “Is it going to cover the benefits that you need based on where you are with your situation or your family? Do you tend to travel? Do you need nationwide coverage? Does it have out-of-network coverage? Do you have overseas coverage?”
A history of serving those on the front lines
Compass Rose may be less well-known than some of the big FEHB carriers, Hebert acknowledged, but it has an unusual niche. It started in 1948 serving employees in what today is called the Intelligence Community. It expanded, not long after 9/11, to Defense Department active and retired employees and then to the State Department. Last year, Compass Rose added employees working for the Homeland Security Department.
“Our mission is really to support those people that defend our country — and defense can come in all different shapes and sizes,” Hebert said. “Although we’re not a household name, we’re expanding to more people. And, honestly, we probably will never be a household name because our goal is not to be the biggest, our goal is to be the best for the members.”
She noted that Compass Rose co-pays are $15 for primary care providers, and $25 for specialists. The company maintains low deductibles, she said, at $350 for individuals and $700 for families.
“We’re thrilled this year our premiums actually went down,” Hebert added, characterizing Compass Rose coverage as ideal for mid-career people.
Expanding Compass Rose Medicare options
Last year, the company launched a Medicare Advantage plan for participants 65 years old and up.
“We’ve gotten feedback: ‘Well, I’m not old enough to be in a Medicare program. I’m not unhealthy enough to be in a Medicare Advantage plan,’ ” she said.
Hebert said Compass Rose took those types of comments to heart: “It’s not about healthy or not healthy. It’s honestly, you turn 65 and you have that Medicare A and B, and you’re within the Compass Rose health plan, you can join our Medicare Advantage. All it does is give you extra benefits. Our Medicare Advantage Program has a lot of things to help those of us that are creeping up on that age.”
Additionally, enrolling in Compass Rose Medicare Advantage won’t affect a participant’s Federal Employee Health Benefits Program status, she said, which was some additional feedback.
“If you’re within FEHBP, and you join an FEHPB Medicare Advantage plan, you will not lose your status,” Hebert said.
People will get free gym memberships and $125 a month to offset Medicare Part B premiums, she said.
Adding unique options for Compass Rose members
For members of its main Federal Employee Health Benefits Program coverage, Compass Rose has some unusual benefits, Hebert said. They include unlimited virtual office visits that have become popular since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That can be critically important for some members on far-flung assignments around the world, she said. Virtual visits carry zero co-pay.
It also includes massage therapy, for which Compass Rose will cover $60 per visit, and require no doctor’s prescription.
Another benefit is low-priced generic medicines: $5 for Compass Rose plan members and $1 for those the Medicare Advantage plan.
Recently, Compass Rose also added a virtual physical therapy.
“You can do your physical therapy in your home. And it’s very, very popular,” Hebert said. “If you’re doing it at home, you can still have the expertise there with you. People are hanging with physical therapy longer so they’re getting better faster.”