Posted on Wednesday, 18th November 2015 by

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I received a number of messages from active federal employees that were not able to get into Employee Express to make FEHB plan changes. Retirees using OPM’s FEHB Open Season Online are getting through and able to request hard copies of brochures and make plan changes.

Employee Express is managed by OPM and employees are able to review their payroll information and make necessary changes including to their health care enrollment. Unfortunately new cyber security patches and upgrades have slowed down the system especially during this open season where many are changing to the new Self Plus One option. Their new log-on interface has changed and they added security questions and many have not been able to get through to the help line. Some have reported wait times in excess of an hour. I understand that OPM has sent out emails to employees about these problems and they are working on the issue and have extended help desk hours.

Fortunately, FEHB Open Season Online has worked well for me personally. Yesterday I signed in and changed my plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield Basic (BCBS) Self plus Family to the GEHA Standard Self Plus One option. This saves me $107 a month in premiums.  I received an immediate online confirmation that I printed for my records and when I signed back into the website the main page shows the pending change. My daughter works for the VA and didn’t have a problem processing her FEHB plan changes through their employee payroll system last week.

I have one correction for my last article titled FEHB Self Plus One Clarification and Plan Comparison Tool where I compared BCBS to the GEHA program. Connie, one of our newsletter subscribers, wrote that GEHA does offer a prescription mail order program. If you look at page 116 of the GEHA booklet it does offer mail order for member (PPO) providers. I meant to say that a mail order program is available for GEHA member providers only. The plan comparison tool was a little confusing on this subject. It shows that a mail order program is available for PPO member pharmacies and not available for non-PPO member pharmacies. I believe in most cases enrollees will be able to find a member pharmacy in their area. Their mail order program is a good value and with their high option you pay less for your prescriptions. They also offer a three month prescription supply at local member pharmacies where others may only offer a 90 day supply through mail order.

One of the other reasons that I changed to BCBS several years ago was that GEHA only provided $250 towards the purchase of hearing aids where BCBS allowed $2,000 or more. Today GEHA provides $1,000 for hearing aids every 5 years for their standard option and up to $2,000 for their high option. When I need hearing aids down the road I’ll switch to their high option for a year.

There are many additional benefits when you are also enrolled in Medicare A and B. The GEHA plans waive all copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles except for pharmacy prescriptions. You are able to choose your own physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers as long as they accept Medicare, and you don’t need precertification for hospital stays or for certain procedures and tests such as MRIs and CT scans.

Medicare announced the new 2016 premiums recently. Next year, the standard Part B premium will be $121.80 (or higher depending on your income). Most people who get Social Security benefits will continue to pay a Part B premium of $104.90 each month. You will pay a different premium amount in 2016 if:

  • You enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016.
  • You don’t get Social Security benefits.
  • You have Medicare and Medicaid, and Medicaid pays your premiums.
  • Your modified adjusted gross income as reported on your IRS tax return from 2 years ago is above a certain amount.

If you are in 1 of these 4 groups your premiums will range from a low of $121.80 to as high as $389.80 a month based on your income. Medicare provides the new payment schedule on their web site.

Request a Retirement Benefits Summary & Analysis. Includes projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Last 5 posts by Dennis Damp

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