November 30, 2007OK, folks, here's your homework for this weekend: Set aside a little time (maybe an hour or two) to make your open season choices. If you already have plans for the weekend, then you'll have through Monday, Dec. 10, to make your selections. But please don't wait until the last minute. This can be a chance to save hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars next year.
You can start by navigating through the Office of Personnel Management's online tools. As you do that and begin to weigh your options, remember that there are three main areas to find savings: health insurance, dental and vision plans and flexible spending accounts. Let's look at each of them in a little more detail. Choosing a Health Plan
It's important to choose your health plan carefully. Consider these important factors:
Dental and Vision
Once you've nailed down your health plan choice, you should consider coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
Before signing up, look at your health plan and see what is already covered. Some health plans offer a dental or vision supplement with their premiums or for an extra fee. In general, HMOs seem to cover more dental and vision benefits.
All FEDVIP dental and vision plans provide preventative coverage for routine checkups, and most offer coverage or discounts for expensive treatments. Compare FEDVIP plans and enroll for 2008 coverage at www.benefeds.com. If you are currently enrolled, your coverage will continue into 2008 without any further action. Both active employees as well as retirees who are eligible for Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage may enroll in a dental or vision plan through FEDVIP.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Finally, if you are a current employee, consider contributing to a flexible spending account. Retirees are not eligible for such accounts.
FSAs allow you to pay for eligible out-of-pocket health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars. That means you get an immediate discount on these expenses that equals the taxes you would otherwise pay on that income. To sign up for next year, go to www.fsafeds.com. Remember that even if you already are signed up for this year, you must register again for 2008.
For further information on FEHBP open season options, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning, on Saturdays at 10 a.m. EST on Federal News Radio. In the Washington area, you can tune in to the show at 1050 on the AM dial. Or you can listen to live or archived shows online at FederalNewsRadio.com.
Upcoming shows include:
Archived shows are:
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.
November 30, 2007