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We're in the stretch run on this year's health benefits open season, with only a little more than a week to go. If you're still contemplating all the choices you have this year, you might want to keep the following tips in mind. Usual and Customary

Knowing what the "usual and customary" amounts are for health care services can help you estimate the benefits you will receive from various health plans. This information also can help you estimate the amount you have to set aside in your flexible spending account for 2007. Here's one way to do it, courtesy of Tom Bernatavitz at Aetna:

  • Go to www.aetnafeds.com.
  • Click on My Navigator in the left column.
  • Use "federal3" for both the username and password. (It's case-sensitive, so make sure all the letters are lowercase.)
  • Scroll over to Take Action on Your Health on the upper right part of the page.
  • Click on Cost of Care.

You can find information on prescription drugs, dental procedures, surgical procedures, office visits, diagnostic tests, vaccines and more.

Don't Forget Dental and Vision

Everyone who has regular eye exams and dental check ups (and that's everyone, isn't it?) should consider the new Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program. The plans are open to federal employees, retirees and survivor annuitants. Preventative care is fully covered in most plans. Employees do not have to pay taxes on the dollars spent on premiums.

When combined with health care flexible spending accounts, these plans can help employees radically reduce the cost of dental and vision care for themselves and their families. To sign up or to get more information, go to www.benefeds.com.

Pay Attention to Premiums

If you are currently enrolled in a plan under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, your carrier should have mailed you a 2007 brochure. There are two things you should do when you get it:

  • Turn it over and look at the 2007 premiums on the back.
  • Find the page that tells you about changes in the plan for 2007.
Once you have this information about your existing plan, you can begin to compare the cost and coverage of other FEHBP plans in your area. Here are a couple of tools to help you: Medicare Issues

Retirees covered by Medicare should be aware that there are some federal health plans that waive their deductibles and co-payments when Medicare is the primary payer. Check out GEHA Standard Option for the lowest premium (but watch the cost of prescriptions if you don't use generics; you will be required to pay 50 percent of the cost of brand-name drugs). Also, look at Mailhandler's Standard Option, which has better prescription coverage and no longer requires a drug deductible.

Another tip for retirees with Medicare: FEHBP plans will continue to cover you even if you choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B. The premium for Part B will be higher than ever before in 2007. If you choose not to enroll in Part B, you may find most of your expenses are covered using an FEHBP HMO if available in your area, or a high option fee for service plan that is available nationwide.

Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.

 

Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Federal News Radio on Mondays at 10 a.m. ET on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington-metro area. Archived shows are available on NITPInc.com.

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