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FEHB Cost Savings and our New 2016 Leave Chart

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Now that we officially aren’t receiving a COLA in 2016 and our health care costs are increasing next year, for some substantially, it’s time to cut our expenses wherever possible. Over the past few months I saved a substantial amount by reviewing our monthly bills and pairing costs. I believe I’ve saved enough to offset the higher FEHB [2] and Medicare health insurance cost increases next year. I also posted our updated 2016 Leave Chart [3] for active federal employees that are planning their exit and need to establish realistic target retirement dates. The new 2016 spreadsheet will also help you maximize your annuity through prudent management of your annual and sick leave balances.

My last article titled FEHB Self Plus One – A Major Disappointment [4]  described how little overall the Self Plus One option will save us and in some cases costs more. Since publishing the article I received a number of emails about the new option.  One of our readers wondered how Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) could justify charging more than twice the cost of the Standard Self option for the Standard Self Plus One option.  The BCBS Standard Self option will cost $217.06 per month in 2016 while the Standard Self Plus One option will cost $501.17 monthly, $67.05 over the cost of two Standard Self enrollments!

Frank, a friend and former associate of mine, was talking with another retiree that has the Nationwide APWU Health Plan. He has been with them since he entered the FAA and right now he is paying $316.83 a month for the High Self and Family option plus a $35.00 a year fee to cover APWU union associate dues. In 2016 their High Self & Family option is increasing substantially to $467.13 per month. However, the Self Plus One option will only cost $335.98 per month, a $131.15 savings per month for those who convert from the APWU Family to the Self Plus One option. The APWU High Self Plus One option is $12.31 less than the BCBS Standard Self Plus One option costs, something worth exploring. The BCBS Basic coverage is limited to their in-service providers and if you go out of their network they don’t cover any of the costs.

I’m currently enrolled in the BCBS Basic Self & Family option that is increasing next year to $355.76 per month. Their Basic Self Plus One option costs $348.29 for a savings of only $7.47, still more than I was paying for the Basic Family option in 2015. Several years ago, before I signed up for Medicare at age 65, I was enrolled in the GEHA Standard Self & Family Benefit Plan. The major reasons why I changed plans was due to their higher deductible, coinsurance and copayments that I had to pay each year plus they covered less for hearing aids which I need every three to five years. Now that I’m on Medicare all of the deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments are covered by the GEHA plan as an incentive to sign up for Medicare. I’ll be ordering the GEHA, BCBS, and the APWU and other health plan brochures this year to compare coverage and benefits.

I also reviewed the HMO plan costs for my area and found the same issues, little to no cost savings for the Self Plus One option. The PA Aetna Open Access plan charges $42 more for their High Self Plus One enrollment than they do for their Family option.

If you haven’t signed up to order health plan brochures and change enrollments on OPM’s FEHB Open Season Online [5] site, sign up this year. It’s easy to register during open season and I order plan brochures and change enrollments online. You get an immediate confirmation for plan changes plus you can view all plan information either online or they will send out hard copies via regular mail. I always order hard copies of the top three plans I’m considering so that I have a copy of the plan I select for my file.

I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article that I was able to reduce our monthly bills substantially this year in preparation for the health care cost increases and lack of COLA in 2016. You too can do the same. Here is a list of the savings I was able to achieve:

Request a Retirement Benefits Summary & Analysis [6]. 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.

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