Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

So Many Choices, So Little Time

ARCHIVES
There is one week left before the start of the annual open season for federal health, dental, vision and flexible spending account benefits. Have you considered changing health plans for next year?

The place to start thinking about that question is the 2008 health benefits brochure for your current plan. You can find it online at the Office of Personnel Management Web site.

Your current plan will have a page located near the beginning of the brochure entitled "How We Change for 2008." There you'll find updates in such areas as deductibles, co-payments and mail order pharmacies, along with lists of new services covered and previously covered services dropped.

On the back cover, you will find the 2008 rates for your plan. Many plans have held the cost of their plans very near to 2007 levels, but there are some exceptions. For example, the Blue Cross Blue Shield standard option, used by more than half of all Federal Employees Health Benefits Program enrollees, is going up by 8.1 percent.

The average increase in vision plans will be less than 1 percent. Dental plans will have an average increase of 6.1 percent for 2008, mostly due to the 9 percent increase in MetLife's plan.

Check with your providers to be sure that they will continue participating with your health plan next year. If you are thinking of changing plans, be sure to ask your doctor and other providers for a list of health plans in which they participate.

Another way to gather information on your choices is to visit a health fair. Most federal agencies sponsor them at some point during open season (which runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10 this year). It is a good idea to do some research prior to attending so that you can be ready with specific questions for the health plan representatives.

The Office of Personnel Management has made it easy to locate the health plans available in your area and compare their features in an online database.

Further Research

There are also a couple of other sources of information about federal health plans: Consumer's Checkbook and PlanSmartChoice. Many agencies subscribe to one or both of these services and make them available to employees. To find out if your agency does, check this section of OPM's Web site.

The Consumer's Checkbook Guide to Health Plans, now in its 29th edition, is written by Walton Francis and the editors of Washington Consumer's Checkbook magazine. The guide, which comes in both print and online versions, provides a lot of information about each federal plan, including charts for individuals and families. Its ratings take into account premiums, catastrophic limits and estimates of likely out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses.

Francis is an economist and policy analyst, so the guide provides detailed analyses of all of the plans from a cost and quality standpoint. There are also comparisons of the new stand-alone dental and vision plans on both estimated out-of-pocket costs and benefits.

You can subscribe to the Checkbook Guide individually here.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, Francis will be conducting a webinar on open season options at GovernmentExecutive.com. Click here for more information and to register for the event.

PlanSmartChoice is an online tool allowing participants to select health plan features and benefits that are important to them. The program then asks the user to rate these attributes and make some trade-off decisions about them. As the person goes through this exercise, the software builds a profile of needs and preferences, and matches this to the plans available in his or her ZIP code.

For more information on PlanSmartChoice and how FEHBP enrollees used it during the 2007 open season, click here.

Program Note

Finally, for more information on open season options, tune in to "For Your Benefit," a radio show that I co-host with my colleague Bob Leins of the National Institute of Transition Planning on Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET on Federal News Radio. In the Washington area, you can tune in at 1050 AM. Or you can listen to live or archived shows online at www.federalnewsradio.com.

Here are some of the upcoming programs that will feature open season information:

  • Nov 3: Walton Francis, Consumer's Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans
  • Nov 10: Tom Bernatavitz, Aetna
  • Nov. 24: Dr. Raymond Obertone, DDS
  • Dec. 8: Al Schubert, VSP Vision Insurance

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 has spent 30 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits. She runs her own consulting business at www.tammyflanagan.com and provides individual counseling as well as online training for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Plan Your Federal Retirement as well as the Federal Long Term Care insurance Program. She also serves as the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars.

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.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.