Posted on Sunday, 3rd September 2017 by

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The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Open season runs from November 13 through December 11 of this year. The 2018 provider brochures should be uploaded soon and when they are released we will present a summary of the 2018 FEHB open season changes and premium increases. Hopefully, the premiums won’t skyrocket like they have and are in the private exchanges.

The vast majority of active federal employees and annuitants appreciate their FEHB coverage. It’s important to choose plans that cover your current and anticipated healthcare needs for the upcoming year. During an open season it’s easy to just let it ride as they say. It’s working for me now so why put time and energy into researching other plans!  A normal response considering how hectic life is today.

In preparation for this open season take time to contemplate you and your family’s overall health for the upcoming year. Will the kids need braces or other dental procedures like root canals and dentures that come with high coinsurance, deductable, and copayments? Are you or your spouse scheduled for a major surgical procedure that your current provider doesn’t cover sufficiently? Are hearing aids in your future? If so the coverage between providers is huge! Some pay next to nothing while others pay the entire $2,000 or more in costs. My GEHA FEHB provider increased their hearing aid payments from $500 every 3 years to $2,000 last year.

Each plan brochure provides a Summary of Benefits behind the Index in the back of the guide for a quick comparison. Then turn to Section 5 (Benefits). Review and compare needed services between providers. For example, in the 2017 GEHA guide, hearing services are listed on page 44. They list what they will pay and the services covered. Look for plans that provide the most overall coverage in the areas needed. For those turning 65 and on Medicare, Medicare becomes your primary healthcare provider, review what your FEHB plan covers in Section 9 of each brochure. Often times if you sign up for Medicare Part A and B your FEHB plans cover the majority of your deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Don’t let the size of the booklets intimidate you. All provider brochures are required to use the same outline and format.

Lots of questions and if you don’t have sufficient coverage you and your family could suffer financially.  This is especially true for those turning 65 and signing up for Medicare, a few missteps here can be catastrophic as I explained in previous articles.

Now is a good time to make a cursory list of what healthcare services you anticipate needing in 2018. I know this sound simplistic; how can anyone know what illness or disease will impact their family. There are practical considerations, are your children approaching the age when braces are needed? If you are younger and anticipating starting a family you will need excellent maternity care or possibly fertility treatments that not all providers offer. if you are approaching retirement or retired, typically the older you are the more you need comprehensive medical services. I can attest to that first hand. If you or a family member have a known medical condition or your family’s medical history points in that direction it would be good to have the services needed available and affordable.

The new plan brochures will be available within the next month or so. Order copies or review them on line to compare costs and services. A little effort now could save you and your family money and aggravation next year.

Qualifying Life Events

It’s important to know that outside of open season, you can enroll in the FEHB Program, change your enrollment, change to Self Only or cancel coverage only in connection with certain qualifying life events (QLEs).  The primary QLEs that permit enrollment or change in enrollment are:

A change in family status:

  • Marriage
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Acquisition of a foster child
  • Legal separation
  • Divorce, and
  • Death of a spouse or dependent

If any of these events happen in your life contact OPM to initiate the appropriate changes. There are certain time limits such as annuitants have 60 days to change their FEHB coverage after a move and there are other considerations. Review the article titled Qualifying Life Events – Don’t Lose Your Benefits to learn more about making FEHB changes due to a qualifying life event.

Other events that impact your FEHB coverage include electing to go on leave without pay, being called up for active duty, OWCP status, turning age 65, etc. There are lots of things to consider, explore the impact of any changes you make to ensure you don’t lose coverage prematurely especially when you become eligible for Medicare at age 65.  Review CAUTION – Don’t Lose Your FEHB Coverage that discusses the pitfalls you must avoid when selecting Medicare plans. OPM also provides QLE details for each event on their web site.

Observations

Automation does tend to make many things easier. However, … that benefit comes with a learning curve, software updates, and constant contact and availability through iphones, email, and tons of social media in the foreground instead of the background of our lives where it belongs. Everywhere you go everyone is on their cell phones and tablets and these devices have invaded our homes as well.

Can’t be too far from our iphone, got to review Facebook every hour to see who is doing what and where!

It is disturbing when you are talking to someone and they are either reading their messages or typing like crazy on their iphone and you seem to be the distraction! Sometimes you just long for the days when you had a house phone and nothing else. When you simply turned on the TV and it came on instead of having to reboot it or wait for a smart TV software update to load. I vividly recall those peaceful times.

Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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