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Posted on Friday, 23rd October 2020 by

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Many annuitants change to a lower cost FEHB plan because most plans waive the majority of the deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance payments when you sign up for Medicare Part A & B. These low cost FEHB plans are often considered when enrolling in Medicare.

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The Advantage of Signing Up for Medicare

When you sign up for Medicare, they become your primary provider while your FEHB plan becomes the secondary. Medicare pays first and then your FEHB plan pays a portion if not all of the remaining bill for you. Most FEHB plans pass on those cost savings to their members by waving many of your deductibles, copayments and coinsurance requirements.

This time of the year those 65 or older receive many offers in the mail and on TV and social media for Medicare Supplement Plans. When you sign up for a Medicare Supplement Plan your only option is to cancel your FEHB plan, you can’t suspend coverage. I wrote two articles,  CAUTION – Don’t Lose Your FEHB Coverage and FEHB Suspensions that discuss the severe consequences a number of our readers suffered by doing so. The suspension article provides a detailed list of things you must know before making this move. Many Medicare Supplement Plan brokers often don’t understand the FEHB program and end up selling you a product that doesn’t provide the comprehensive coverage you now have. If you know of anyone considering leaving the FEHB program forward this article to them.

Each plan published a 2021 guide for Medicare enrollees and they are very helpful. Here are links to two provider’s Medicare Brochures:

Plan Comparison

This summary compares the 2021 premiums, significant changes, and discusses what to expect when you sign up for Medicare A & B. There are many other plans to consider. I used these two nationwide providers because BCBS has the most subscribers and GEHA has one of the lowest premiums for their standard plan.

OPM’s Plan Comparison Tool and the Consumers’ Checkbook 2021 Guide to Health Plans can be used to find the best FEHB plan for your needs. OPM’s guide will be available for 2021 plans beginning the first full week of November. The Consumers’ Checkbook Guide is available in print and online formats. Federal Retirement readers can pre-ordered their guide at Guidetohealthplans.org  and save 20% by entering promo code FEDRETIRE at checkout. The Guide will be released online no later than the first day of Open Season November 9th. Print books will be mailed the week prior to the start of Open Season.

The Checkbook guide does all of these complex costing calculations for you on line and provides side-by-side evaluations with ratings for each plan! It calculates total healthcare cost including your income adjusted Medicare premium, any Part B reimbursements available, and FEDVIP costs.

Costs

If you have the Basic Blue Cross Blue Shield Option, you can apply for a $800 Medicare Reimbursement for each member on your contract with Medicare Part A and B. “That’s $1600 a year for a Self Plus One enrollment when both have Medicare! To obtain the reimbursement you must provide proof that you paid Medicare premiums in 2021 by submitting a Medicare Reimbursement claim. Claims are submitted online by registering for a Medicare Reimbursement Account at fepblue.org/mra or through the EZ Receipts app. You can also mail or fax in a claim form. GEHA provides a $600 per member reimbursement only for their high option plan.

There are other costs to consider. For example, you will find that BCBS Basic limits deductibles, copayment, and coinsurance waivers for Medicare enrollees to in network providers while GEHA Standard includes waivers for both in and out of network providers according to their brochure plus they pay doctor visit copayments. According to the BCBS 2021 Pamphlet, page 17, You must use Preferred Providers in order to receive benefits” for the Basic plan and on page 146 it states, “Under basic option we will waive copayments and coinsurance for care received from covered professional and facility providers.” Here is where it does get complicated. When you are enrolled in Medicare you can go to any provider. Just be aware that some plans, like BCBS Standard plans, may not waive deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance fees for out of network providers and that can be expensive. Check Section 9 of your FEHB plan brochure to verify coverage.

Medicare Part B Premiums add to your monthly healthcare costs which for 2020 was as low as $144.60 to as high as $491.60 due to Medicare’s Part B income adjusted premiums. To qualify for the lowest Part B premium those filing an individual tax return must have a Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) of $87,000 or less and married couples $174,000 or less.  Gross Income (GI) is calculated before MAGI. Gross Income (GI) is total income earned through wages, dividends, interests, royalty and rental, business income, capital gains, and others. MAGI is calculated by adding back certain deductions such as tax-free municipal bond and student loan interest, tuition, rental loss and IRA contributions to name a few.

Total monthly health care premiums for those on Medicare and enrolled in the Self Plus One plans featured in this article are listed below:

  • BCBS Basic ($409.87) GEHA Standard ($291.22)
  • FEDVIP – Vision & Dental Coverage (Varies depending on plan)
  • Medicare Part B ($144.60 per person for those without an income adjustment)
  • FLTCIP – Long Term Care (Varies considerably depending on plan)

For a Self Plus One enrollment the total cost for coverage would be $409.87 for BCBS, $144.60 times 2 or $289.20 for Medicare, plus the cost of your FEDVIP and FLTCIP. I pay $50 a month for FEDVIP plus $194.80 for FLTCIP for my wife and I. Here is what you would pay monthly using my cost for FEDVIP and FLTCIP assuming both signed up for Medicare B and the couple is earning less than $174,000 a year:

  • BCBS – ($409.87 + $289 + $50 + $194 = $942.87 monthly, $11,314 / year)
  • GEHA – ($291.22 + $289 + $50 + $194 = $824.22 monthly, $9,890.64 / year)

If BCBS Basic members apply for and each receive a $800 Medicare Reimbursement for a Self Plus One enrollment, their adjusted monthly costs would be reduced to $809 in the above example.

2021 Plan Changes

For a complete list of changes for both plans review section 2 of each brochure.

Observation

Many federal annuitants are hesitant to sign up for Medicare Part B due to the additional cost and what appears to be duplicate coverage. I personally know a number of retirees that are now paying large copayments and coinsurance fees because they didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B at age 65. In one instance, Pat the wife of a man I worked with for many years, is now in her late 70s. At age 65 her husband decided not to sign them up for part B. Pat called to ask me if it was too late to sign up for Part B. She required full body scans that she was paying a $1700 copayment each time she had the scan done. She was also paying other high coinsurance fees.

Pat could still sign up however for each year she delayed signing up, Medicare charges a 10% penalty, and it would have cost her 140% more for Part B coverage, over twice what a person that signs up for Part B at age 65.

If you review coinsurance and copayment costs within your current FEHB plan you can see where the costs could be prohibitive for major medical problems. For example, in the GEHA Standard Plan those who don’t have Part B would have to pay a $15 copayment for a PPO primary care physician visit; a $30 copayment to see a specialist for covered office visits and 15% of other covered professional services including X-ray and lab.  If the service is provided by a Non-PPO the member has to pay 35% of covered professional services.  If your procedure is at a Non-PPO and costs $5,000 you would be required to pay the first $350 deductable and then an additional $1,750, your 35% share of the costs. With Part B these fees are waived.

Summary

My wife and I enrolled in GEHA basic before I turned 65 to reduce cost. Plus, we travel, and require coverage for in and out-of-network providers. I use hearing aids and the GEHA Basic plan offers $2,500 towards the purchase of hearing aids every three years, BCBS Standards has the same reimbursement for hearing aids but limits them to once every five years. One of the advantages of the GEHA Standard Plan when compared to the BCBS Basic Plan is that with Medicare A & B, GEHA benefits are the same whether or not your provider is in their network.

There are many other considerations to take into account when signing up for any plan. Those who use a large number of prescription drugs must review reimbursements to see which plan will cover the most and if you need special procedures. Ensure the provider you select offers the services you need.  If you use expensive drugs, check with providers to ensure your medication is on their formulary list. I had a problem getting an asthma drug I’ve used for the past 5 years after GEHA removed it from their recommended formulary list. There is more to your selection than meets the eye. Take your time this open season to thoroughly review your options and costs.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Monday, 19th October 2020 by

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Our government reports that inflation is low, yet every time we turn around prices are increasing.  I often ponder why our COLAs, 1.3% for 2021, are so low most years when costs for essentials are increasing.

We are used to paying more for everything these days so it shouldn’t be a surprise to everyone that our Federal Employee’s Health Benefits (FEHB) premiums are going to rise again this year. (OPM) announced this week that for plan year 2021, the average total premiums for current non-Postal employees and retirees enrolled in plans under the FEHB Program will increase by 3.6%, last year’s increase was 4% percent.

OPM negotiated a new, seven-year contract for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). While the majority of current FEDVIP enrollees should not experience a significant increase in premiums, enrollees are encouraged by OPM to research the various FEDVIP plans and choose the dental and vision coverage that best fits their needs.

The new rates are now posted online. My wife and I are enrolled in the Nationwide GEHA Standard Self Plus One Plan. Their premium is increasing 3.4% from $282.05 a month to $291.92. Brochures won’t be out for a while through OPM. Brochures won’t be available for a while through OPM. However, the providers such as GEHA and Blue Cross often have the brochures available now. Here are links to their 2021 brochures:

The Nationwide Blue Cross and Blue Shield Basic Self Plus One premium increased 5.6% to $409.87 per month. Last year the monthly premium was $386.99. HMO plans have similar price changes with some reductions, for example the Pennsylvania UPMC HMO Health Plan Self Plus One UW6 enrollment code premium decreased from $421.91 per month to $412.58.

OPM’s Plan Comparison Tool and the Consumers’ Checkbook 2021 Guide to Health Plans can be used to find the best FEHB plan for your needs. OPM’s guide will be available for 2021 plans beginning the first full week of November. The Consumers’ Checkbook Guide is available in print and online formats. Federal Retirement readers can pre-ordered their guide at Guidetohealthplans.org  and save 20% by entering promo code FEDRETIRE at checkout. The Guide will be released online no later than the first day of Open Season November 9th. Print books will be mailed the week prior to the start of Open Season.

To reduce costs many signing up for Medicare Part B consider converting their FEHB coverage to a lower cost option. The article I wrote titled A Marriage of Convenience – Medicare & FEHB will help those approaching 65 determine what FEHB coverage will be most cost effective and provide the best coverage.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Schedule A Retirement Benefits Seminar in Your Area

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Tuesday, 13th October 2020 by

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I reported in mid-September that the 2021 COLA was projected to be anywhere from .44% to as high as 1.2% according to Kiplinger’s. The Social Security Administration announced a 1.3% COLA increase on October 13th for 2020. CSRS and FERS annuitants will receive the full 1.3% this year. View the table of all COLAs from 1999 to the present to see how it has changed over the years.

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Leave Chart Correction
We released our new 2021 Excel Leave Chart last week. However, we left off the New Years day holiday on Friday December 31, 2021. I would like to thank Lynne at GSA for letting us know about this error. We corrected the spreadsheets and the new revised forms are available for download.

Annuity Projection Calculator

Everyone planning their retirement needs to know how much they will have to live on in retirement and how much their annuity and the surviving spouse’s benefit will grow over time. Unlike many private sector retirement plans, our annuities are adjusted annually – most years – with a COLA. The 45-year average COLA, from 1975 to through 2020, was 3.68%! Not bad considering many private-company plans don’t provide annual cost of living increases.

Frank Cullen, a retired FAA manager and friend, developed this Calculator to estimate annual annuity increases over time. He used it when he was retiring to project his annuity and survivor’s benefit for a period of 40 years from the date he retired. Frank updated the Annuity Calculator last October and with a few minor adjustments you can adapt this to FERS as well.

I entered a 2020 annuity of $52,000 as an example on the chart and selected an average 2% growth rate. After 10 years the projected annuity with survivor’s benefits grew to $63,387, $5,282 monthly. The survivor’s benefit for CSRS would be $38,571 or $3,214 monthly in this example.  A 2% growth rate increased the annual annuity amount by $11,387 over ten years from 2020 through 2030! Not bad. You can run different scenarios on this spreadsheet with or without a survivor’s benefit.

This calculator projects your annual and monthly annuity payment with survivor benefit, without survivor benefit, and the projected survivor annuity. The projections are based on your annuity at the time you retire and a selected growth rate (COLA). All COLAs for the past 45 years, back to 1975, are listed on the spreadsheet with the average 2, 3, 5, 10 – and 42-year COLA factors that you can consider for your personal calculation.

With CSRS a full survivor’s annuity is 55% of the full annuity not 55% of what you were collecting as a couple.  A CSRS full survivor’s annuity costs you just under 10% of your monthly payment however the survivor’s annuity is calculated from the full annuity prior to the survivor’s reduction. Therefore, a CSRS surviving spouse can expect to receive about 61% of what the couple was receiving prior to the annuitant’s death. Also, if an annuitant’s spouse dies, the annuitant would notify OPM and their annuity would be restored to the full amount that is listed on the spreadsheet. OPM does not refund any prior survivor annuity deductions when an annuitant’s spouse dies.

For FERS employees the projected annuity without a survivor’s benefit will be the same; just enter your annuity estimate, enter your age, year of retirement, what you consider to be a realistic growth rate, and the spreadsheet will calculate your annuity for the next 40 years! The column reserved for your projected annuity with survivor benefits will be slightly lower since the maximum spousal benefit is 50% for FERS, not the 55% for CSRS. Also, the full FERS annuity will cost the retiree a little more because FERS employees pay 10% of their annuity for a full survivor’s benefit where CSRS pay just under 10%. FERS COLAs are adjusted down when the COLA exceeds 2%.

To determine what your initial retirement annuity will be request estimates from Human Resources for several target retirement dates. I requested at least a half dozen estimates two years before I retired. You can also calculate your estimated FERS annuity or CSRS annuity using the formulas we have available on our site.

All you need to do is enter the appropriate values in the four highlighted cells. The spreadsheet will do the rest for you. The spreadsheet is locked except for the 4 highlighted entry cells. This is to ensure that formulas are not inadvertently altered. The form’s password is provided on the spreadsheet so those familiar with Excel can modify the spreadsheet as desired.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION, UNCATEGORIZED

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Posted on Friday, 9th October 2020 by

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Each year we publish a comprehensive leave record that federal employees can use to track their annual and sick leave, comp, and credit hours used. Our updated 2021 Excel Leave Chart is designed for active federal employees that are planning their retirement and need to establish realistic target retirement dates. The new Excel 2021 Leave Record Spreadsheet also helps federal employees maximize their annuity through prudent management of their leave balances.

Please share our 2021 leave chart with everyone in your organization. The chart tracks all leave balances and you are able to annotate your work schedule on the chart as well. Simply download the spreadsheet to your desk top for easy availability.

Download the 2021 Leave Record Chart

A few leave chart users reported a problem with opening the leave spreadsheet last year, the Excel chart was opening in protected mode and they were not able to enter data. If your spreadsheet opens in protected view click the “enable editing” button in the yellow bar at the top of the form. However, if you don’t see the enable editing button you may have an older version of Excel or your IT department may have to allow the form to pass without restrictions. We also included a newer slsx workbook version that you can use if you have problems with the earlier version.

A Microsoft Office consulting firm advised us that If the spreadsheet only opens in the protected view status and the newer slsx version doesn’t correct the problem talk with your IT staff. Some agencies increase their security settings to lock out certain documents based on set parameters. We include several hyperlinks in our spreadsheet to link users to additional supporting information such as our sick leave conversion chart and that may be the cause.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today
Limited Time 1/2 Price Special

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Schedule A Retirement Benefits Seminar in Your Area

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

 

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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Posted on Thursday, 1st October 2020 by

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Your vote matters, regardless of who you plan to vote for. Those planning their retirement and annuitants are older and may wish to vote remotely due to the pandemic. You can always request an absentee ballot. This year a number of States have initiated new vote by mail practices and there is considerable confusion in those states about the process. If you have any questions contact your state election board as soon as possible to ensure your vote will count. Many law suits have been filed by both political parties concerning these new vote-by-mail initiates due to the concerns over potential voter fraud and the possible rejection of incomplete ballots.

Request a Federal Retirement Report™ (Fall Special)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance for voting in person at polling locations that includes: wash your hands before and after, bring and use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, continue social distancing, bring your own blue/black ink pen and vote at off-peak hours such as mid-morning.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 3, but voting has already begun in many states, including Pennsylvania. Visit www.vote.gov to register to vote or contact your state’s election board for voting requirements and procedures.  We can all help the upcoming election run smoothly by planning now for how you intend to vote.

The sooner you decide on what path you will take the better. Last year we were traveling and I requested an absentee ballot a month before our trip. It never arrived, and when we returned the ballot was not in our held mail at the post office.

My wife and I intend to vote at our local polling place this November by following the CDC guidance. We currently shop at  Walmart, grocery stores, and other local establishments and voting is no different. We will maintain social distance, wear a mask, and take a blue or black ink pen with us. Plus, we don’t have to worry about whether or not our mail-in ballot arrived and was counted.

The important and responsible thing to do is vote, regardless of the method used.

Pennsylvania’s voting process is outlined below. Your state will have similar voting resources for you to use. When voting by mail, you must follow the process precisely or your vote may be rejected.

Pennsylvania Voting

Register to vote: You can register to vote online, by mail, in person at your county voter registration office or at PennDOT and select other government agencies. If you’re not sure if you’ve already registered, check your registration status today. The deadline to register to vote for the current election cycle is Monday, October 19. I checked my voter registration; they provide a lot of helpful information including your polling place, federal congressional district, and state district offices, to name a few.

Voting in person: You can vote in person at an assigned polling place near where you live, open 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3. If your name is not in the voter roster, you may have the right to vote on a provisional ballot. Poll workers can assist if you have questions on Election Day.

Voting by mail:  All qualified voters may apply for a mail-in ballot. Tuesday, October 27 is the deadline to request a mail-in or absentee ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by 8 PM on Tuesday, November 3 and received by your county election office by 5 PM on Friday, November 6. If you are concerned about USPS delays in delivering mail-in or absentee ballots, you can drop off your ballot at your county election office.

Double-check all deadlines at VOTESPA.com or call 1-877-868-3772 for the most up-to-date information. Follow the directions carefully or your vote will not be counted. Including things like marking your ballot in blue or black pen, placing and sealing your ballot in the inner secrecy envelope that says “official ballot” and then placing it in the outer return envelope, sealing it and signing it.

The process can be confusing and many are returning their ballots in the wrong envelope and are not signing the secrecy envelope when they send it in. This invalidates your vote. Read the instructions that come with your state’s mail-in voting application and follow the guidance provided when your ballot arrives.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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Posted on Saturday, 26th September 2020 by

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The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) has 3.3 million enrollees including 1.7 million enrollees enrolled in both programs.  This program provides dental and vision benefits to a total of 6.9 million Federal employees, uniformed service members, retirees and their family members.


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

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has selected insurance carriers to provide comprehensive, accessible and competitively priced dental and vision coverage through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP), effective January 1, 2021. The contract term is seven (7) years.

Next year the number of FEDVIP dental carriers will increase from 10 to 12. The number of vision carriers will increase from 4 to 5. Eligible individuals may enroll, cancel, or change their enrollment during the Federal Benefits Open Season this year, November 9 to December 14, 2020.

2021 Nationwide/International Dental Carriers

  • Aetna Dental PPO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • BCBS FEP Blue Dental
  • GEHA Dental PPO
  • MetLife Dental PPO
  • United Concordia PPO
  • UnitedHealthcare Dental PPO (New)

2021 Regional Dental Carriers

  • Dominion Dental EPO (New)
  • Emblem Health
  • HealthPartners (New)
  • Humana EPO/PPO
  • Triple S Salud

2021 Nationwide/International Vision Carriers

  • Aetna Vision
  • BCBS FEP Vision
  • MetLife Vision (New)
  • UnitedHealthcare Vision
  • VSP

Use OPM’s Dental and Vision Care Comparison Tool after the new rates and plans are published this October and Checkbook’s “Guide to Health Plans for federal employees”, that provides comprehensive analysis and comparison of plans. Our new guest writer, Kevin Moss, provides health care open season advice in his first article titled, “2021 Open Season Advice & Checkbook’s Guide to Health Plans Introduction” that you will find helpful.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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Posted on Friday, 25th September 2020 by

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The 2021 FEHB Open Season runs from November 9th through December 14th. For 42 years, Consumers’ Checkbook has published our annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees to help active and retired federal employees find the best FEHB plan for them. By asking you a few questions about yourself and your family, the Guide provides a personalized total cost estimate for each plan which is the premium plus expected out-of-pocket for someone like you. You’ll see which plans will save you the most money or which will provide the most coverage. For retirees, we provide a yearly cost estimate for every FEHB plan with Medicare Part A only and a separate estimate for the FEHB plans with Medicare Parts A and Parts B. By doing so, we’re able to show users which plans coordinate best with Medicare, the cost reduction size of adding Medicare Part B, and whether the FEHB plan offers Medicare Part B premium rebates.

Here are some important tips to consider as the 2021 FEHB Open Season approaches:

  • Don’t assume your plan is unchanged. The premium almost certainly will change. Certain benefits may be added or taken away. Your doctors may have left the plan. An expensive drug may no longer be on formulary. Even if you don’t anticipate switching plans, it makes sense to see how your plan has changed every Open Season.
  • Check to see if there are newer plan choices that might be better buys. There are High Deductible plans (HDHP) with health reimbursement arrangements that can provide big savings and that have terrific catastrophic coverage. Remember, higher premium plans do not mean better benefits. They may simply reflect the expensive enrollees they attract. For retirees, there are new Medicare Advantage plans offered by some FEHB plans that reimburse almost the entire Medicare Part B premium and waive all doctor and hospital expenses.
  • Read the plan brochure. We know. They are long and not fun to go through, but they offer the clearest view of what life is like in a plan. Retirees should go to Section 9 to see if there are any Medicare coordination changes in your current plan.
  • Review important benefits. If there is a benefit that is important to you, check that benefit in the Checkbook Guide to see which plans give you the best deal. Make sure to check the plan brochure for that benefit to see additional information.
  • Consider your dental and vision needs. The standalone FEDVIP plans are good buys for many, but not all. Remember that some FEHB plans offer modest dental and vision benefits that don’t require you to pay a separate premium. Also, some FEHB plans offer dental and vision discount programs as part of their “Non-FEHB” benefits. The Checkbook Guide will show you how all your available choices stack up under low, average, or high dental expense years. Hint: If you have low dental expenses you might be better off in a FEHB plan that offers some dental benefits vs paying a FEDVIP premium.

The Guide is available in print and online formats. Federal Retirement readers can pre-order the Guide at Guidetohealthplans.org and save 20% by entering promo code FEDRETIRE at checkout. The Guide will be released online no later than the first day of Open Season November 9th. Print books will be mailed the week prior to the start of Open Season.

The Center for the Study of Services (CSS), the publisher of Consumers’ Checkbook and the Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in Washington D.C. in 1974. The organization has decades of experience in healthcare surveys, research, analysis, and reporting and works with research organizations, federal agencies, health plans, healthcare providers, and state insurance exchanges to measure, report, and improve the experiences of healthcare consumers and patients.

Consumers’ Checkbook was first published by CSS in the Washington D.C. area in 1976. The methodology used then remains the same today—to determine a service provider or healthcare professional’s rating, local consumers are surveyed, and research staff conduct undercover price shopping. Checkbook is the only publication that supplies unbiased, detailed ratings of local businesses along with verified price information and advice. The website and publications never carry advertising and there are no referral fees from the businesses rated. Consumers’ Checkbook now serves seven metropolitan areas, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Twin Cities, and Washington D.C.

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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.

Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Friday, 18th September 2020 by

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I receive many questions this time of year about the retirement process and required forms. It can take several months for HR to process your papers and send them to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for final determination of your claim.

Many federal and postal workers elect to retire at end of year because employees can sell back their use or lose annual leave plus current year accumulation.  This can amount to a lump sum check of up to 20 percent of their annual gross wages. I sold back 440 hours of annul leave when I retired many years ago. The lump sum is generally paid out 6 to 8 weeks after retiring and therefor taxes are deferred to the following year. Plus, your income is generally less after retirement and you pay less taxes on the lump sum payout.

I submitted my retirement application forms three months before retirement. OPM suggests submitting them at least 2 months before your target retirement date. The more time HR has to process your application the better.

Last year I wrote an article titled, The Ultimate Retirement Planning Guide that outlines the steps federal and postal employees must take to effect their retirement. I updated the article this week. The process can be confusing and there is much to consider; from selecting the best date to retire to the many benefit elections available. Each of the required forms come with instructions, however they can be and are often confusing. Our guide links you to clarifications and detailed explanations for each election along with other recommendations that will help you make informed decisions.

The following basic package of retirement forms are required for both the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).  After meeting with your HR retirement counselor and reviewing your Official Personnel File (OPF), other forms may be necessary for areas such as military credits.

FERS Forms

  • SF-3107 (Application for Immediate Retirement)
  • SF-3107-2 (Spouse’s Consent to Survivor Election) This form is only required if you do not elect the full survivor benefit for your current spouse. Included with the SF-3107 form.
  • SF-2818 (Continuation of Life Insurance Coverage)
  • SF-2817 (Life Insurance Election) Use this form is you do not wish to continue all of your optional life insurance into retirement. The SF-2818 cannot be used to cancel life insurance.
  • TSP – Forms needed for your election of TSP disbursements.

CSRS Forms

  • SF-2801 (Application for Immediate Retirement)
  • SF-2801-2 (Spouse’s Consent to Survivor Election) This form is only required if you do not elect the full survivor benefit for your current spouse. Included with the SF-2801 form.
  • SF-2818 (Continuation of Life Insurance Coverage)
  • TSP – Forms needed for your election of TSP disbursements.
  • RI 38-124 (Voluntary Contributions Election) Only required if you want a refund of your voluntary contributions.

If you are considering retirement at end of year, this is a good time to start your retirement application and talk with HR. You can request detailed retirement benefit estimates for several target retirement dates plus they can help you through the process. Use our Ultimate Retirement Planning Guide for clarifications and to ensure you aren’t missing anything.

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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 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.

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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