Open season: How to pick the best health plan for you


Each year, only about six percent of the people in the massive Federal Employee Health Benefits Program shop around and actually change plans. The experts say that at least half — if not more —should have changed plans in the past. And this year too.

The ‘problem’ with the FEHBP is a good one. Too many — anywhere from 20 to 30 — plans and options to choose from. But the pros said you can narrow those choices down to two or three plans, then consider premiums (remember Uncle Sam will pay 70 to 75 percent), coverage you are likely to need next year and, most important, the plan’s limit-to-you.

Premiums are important but not the driving factor. Some of the so-called Cadillac plans in the FEHBP are excellent. But people are paying to much. In some cases they can get equal if not better coverage with the plans standard or low option. Or with a rival insurance company. But you gotta shop. And shop smart.

This week’s episode of  Your Turn shows you how to do that. First, Walton Francis answers your questions. He’s the guy who wrote the book on how to pick the best federal health plan: Checkbook’s Guide To Health Plans For Federal Employees. Next Mr. Pat Grady, TRICARE Health Plan chief, tells us about changes that active military and veterans should be aware of this Open Season.

Francis explains how to spot best buys, how high-deductible and consumer-driven plans work and why some plans will actually open a savings account for you that is worth more than the premiums you’ll pay.

In addition to the book, many federal agencies have paid for and are offering Checkbook’s online version so workers can shop — at home or the office — and tailor their search to what they want, need and find out if their doctor will be in that plan or plans network next year.