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Open Season Q&A

Throughout the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program open season, my email inbox has been filled with questions about insurance choices. This week, I thought I’d share some of them in the hopes they might help you consider your open season options. You have a little more than a week to make your choices before open season ends on Dec. 12.

Both my husband and I are federal employees. I will retire at the end of February 2017, while my husband plans to retire in early 2018. Last year, after many years of family coverage, we had planned to move to the self plus one option, but research revealed that for the Blue Cross standard option plan, we could save around $800 in premium costs if each of us took a self only policy instead. For 2017, we did the same comparisons and once again discovered a savings in premium costs if each of us has a self only policy for the Blue Cross standard coverage. However, is there is a tax savings enjoyed by the federal employee who holds the policy instead of the retiree who pays with after-tax dollars?

It can be a close call, but depending on...

Making Your Open Season Choices

We’re coming to the end of the first full week of the annual open season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Flexible Spending Account Program and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. That means you have three weeks (and four weekends) left to make your choices for 2017.

I’ve been getting lots of questions already regarding health plan options, so it seems that many of you are not procrastinating and are evaluating the best choices for you and your family. That isn’t easy, since you can’t know for sure what the future will hold when it comes to your health.

So, how do you decide? Let’s look at some key factors you should consider.

Preferred Provider Organizations

Using PPO providers (doctors who are in your plan network) will save you money in every health plan and in some cases are required because benefits are generally not available for services performed by non-preferred providers. This caveat is especially true with many health maintenance organization plans, but may also be true with some of the low-option PPO plans.

You may have some physicians and other health care providers that you are not willing to...

Money-Saving Medicare Tips

Last week, we looked at the rising costs of Medicare Part B insurance, which helps cover doctors’ services and outpatient care. Many federal employees and retirees are wondering whether they need to sign up for the increasingly expensive Part B, since they typically already carry Federal Employee Health Benefits Program coverage into retirement.

Let’s look at some specific Medicare-related questions I’ve received lately that may provide insight into how you could save some money on health costs.  

I have Medicare A and B and I did not sign up for Kaiser’s Senior Advantage for FEHBP members. I have high option with Kaiser, but I am thinking of dropping to the standard self-only plan, which is about $65 less a month (this will vary depending on what part of the country you live in). Medicare B is getting so expensive, and I am not on Social Security so they can keep increasing my rates like crazy. This would provide a big savings that I could contribute to paying my Medicare premium.

You are correct that switching from high option to standard option will save money on your premiums. Not enrolling in Part B would provide an additional savings...

Making Sense of the Medicare Mess

Making decisions about insurance coverage is a very important part of retirement planning. In particular, federal retirees have a lot of concerns about Medicare and their coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Those questions are particularly important this time of year, with FEHBP open season just days away.

As members of the Baby Boom generation continue to retire in large numbers, many federal retirees — and even many active employees — are nearing age 65 and will need to think about adding Medicare to their health insurance coverage. How much will it cost and is it necessary?

One big question involves Medicare Part B, which helps cover the cost of doctors’ services and outpatient care. Many employees and retirees wonder they need to add Part B coverage, since most of them continue their FEHBP coverage into retirement.

That question is complicated by concerns about the premium increase for Part B in 2017. That is still a mystery as we wait for Congress to come back in session until after the election to find out whether legislators will take action to prevent looming increases from going into effect.

For the many federal retirees who do not have Medicare withheld from a...

Tricks and Treats in Retirement

Halloween is right around the corner, so this week I’m focusing on tricks and treats in the retirement process. In this context, “trick” means sham, snow job, run around or double-cross.  “Treat” indicates a pleasant surprise or satisfactory result. Read the stories below, and see if you can predict which will turn out to be tricks and which will be treats.

Judy’s husband passed away on Aug. 10 and the Office of Personnel Management was notified within two weeks of his death. Her husband was receiving a reduced Civil Service Retirement System benefit so Judy could get survivor’s annuity benefits and continuation of health benefits if she outlived him. Did she get them?

Trick: Judy said she had notified OPM personally, but the agency treated the notification as though it had come from someone else. So OPM assumed she had already died, and asked her heirs for a copy of her death certificate, too. A phone call to OPM straightened out the confusion and Judy will soon be receiving the survivor’s annuity that her late husband had provided for her along with continuation of his health insurance.

Delores is a recent widow who is planning her...

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