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Last Chance for Open Season Changes

As everyone knows, the holidays can be a stressful time. And years ago the federal government decided to add to the pressure by scheduling the annual Federal Employees Health Benefits Program open season during this period. Why couldn’t they have picked February or March?

I’m ready for this open season to be over. If you are, too, the good news is you don’t have long to wait. Open season ends at midnight on Monday, Dec. 12. But I’m still getting a lot of questions from people who haven’t finalized their decisions about health plans, dental and  vision supplements, and flexible spending account allotments. Since the answers to such questions can mean more cash in your take-home pay next year and fewer out-of-pocket medical expenses, I thought I’d take up a few of them during this last week of open season.

I am going to suspend my FEHBP coverage because I am also covered as a retiree under TRICARE. If I later wish to enroll in self plus one coverage, can I re-enroll in that level of coverage even though I suspended a self-only plan?

Since retirees can change from self only to self plus...

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...

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