Most Feds Could Save $2K or More By Switching Health Insurance

A new guide aims to help federal employees and retirees make more informed decisions during open season.

Does open season make your head hurt? Weighing your health insurance options—and all the potential scenarios under which you might need care—can be overwhelming. But before you throw your hands up and opt to stay with the plan you already have, know that you could be leaving some serious money on the table and still fall short on coverage when you most need it.

Consider this: Most new consumer driven, high deductible health insurance plans offered to federal employees provide significant savings over almost all traditional insurance plans. What’s more, those new plans protect enrollees against high costs as well or better than most other plans. That’s just one of the takeaways from the new Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees.

“Many popular plans may not be the best choices for coverage this year,” the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook said in a release announcing the guide. “Most federal employees and retiree families can save $2,000 or more if they make any of several choices that rank high in the guide—and still get high-quality service and be protected against catastrophic health care costs,” according to Consumers’ Checkbook.

The guide evaluated 20 health plan options, over 200 health maintenance organization options, local plans available in specific geographic areas and several plans restricted to certain categories of employees. It’s plan comparison tool allows users to evaluate potential costs based on demographically similar health-care usage data. The guide also rates plans based on a number of factors, such as how well the plan coordinates with Medicare, whether it is best for families or single people. Separate ratings for retirees show how much they could save or lose depending on whether they are enrolled in both Medicare Part B and one of the plans available to federal retirees.  

Among the guide’s findings:

  • Carriers have widely different claim dispute rates. For example, Blue Cross, NALC and SAMBA plans have about three to eight disputed claims for every 10,000 enrollees, while many plans have dispute rates that are twice as high.
  • Plan comparisons vary significantly depending on age, family size and retirement status. Example: The Aetna HMO Basic option, Kaiser HMO standard option and a number of other consumer-driven or high-deductible options will save a retired couple without Medicare an average of $3,000 or more, compared to the most popular retiree plan, Blue Cross standard option.  

The guide is available online at and in print; many agenies offer free access for employees.