Guide to Health Plans

What the Guide Does  
CHECKBOOK's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees gives you vital insurance information that you cannot get from any other source. It tells you how much money you can save by changing—or by staying in—your health insurance plan. It summarizes thousands of facts about the plans to simplify your choice. The Guide comes in both print and Internet versions. They are almost identical but the print version is more convenient for many, and the online version allows more depth and details. The online version is particularly useful for Federal agencies that subscribe for all their employees, giving the employees invaluable money-saving advice while saving the agencies money as well, since they pay most of the premium cost. We show employees how to save thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs. Federal agencies gain over a thousand dollars, on average, for every employee who switches to a lower-cost plan using our advice. In both versions:
  • We rate all of over 250 health insurance plans available to Federal employees and retirees, including a dozen national plans, almost 200 health maintenance organization (HMO) options, and over a dozen Consumer-Driven and High Deductible plan options. Whether you live in Washington, the Midwest, or New England, we rate all the plans in your community.
  • Our ratings of plan costs take into account premiums, catastrophic limits, and estimates of likely out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses of every kind..
  • We compare plans for insurance value in dealing with unforeseen medical expenses, not just for the routine costs you can predict.
  • We compare limits on out-of-pocket costs based on the actual coverage allowed by each plan, not just what the plan seems to say before you read the fine print.
  • We rate plans for each coverage group—employees in all pay systems, annuitants with or without Medicare, former spouses, families of various sizes, children at age 26, part-time employees, and former employees.
  • We rate plans according to how well each covers low, average, or high medical expenses, analyzing coverage of all major types of cost.
  • We adjust our estimates for the tax advantages that reduce the after-tax premium cost to most employees (but not retirees) by about one third.
  • We provide information on coinsurance, copays and other cost sharing, so you can quickly determine whether a plan pays well for a benefit you need.
  • We provide accurate estimates of potential exposure to catastrophic expense by adjusting plans' claimed limits on out-of-pocket expenses so they don't omit important categories of cost.
  • We give you data on coverage features of each plan, including skilled nursing, dental, and mental health.
  • We address plan quality, and provide data on enrollee satisfaction with each plan's service. We provide in-depth results from an annual survey in which plan members rate their plans on ease of getting needed care, customer service, claims processing, and other factors.
  • We rate dental and vision plans as well. We provide dollar estimates of likely dental costs, taking into account both premiums and out-of-pocket expense, not just descriptions. We compare dental coverage in all plans, not just standalone plans.
  • We provide up-to-date information on changes in the FEHBP program, including the effects of health reform.
  • We provide detailed consumer advice on which plan options work best in different situations, on plan advantages you may not have thought about, and on mistakes to avoid.

As a result, the Guide gives you a solid basis for selecting the best health or dental plan for you and your family. Hundreds of thousands of employees and annuitants have followed our advice over the years, and many of them have saved thousands of dollars a year by finding better coverage for lower premiums. There is no other source of plan comparisons or Open Season advice that provides even half of these features.