11 FEHB Open Season Tips
Throughout the Guide we have provided vital tips. We repeat some here:
- Getting "Free" Health Insurance—Some Consumer-Driven and High Deductible FEHB plans provide you a savings account larger than your actual premium cost after taxes. You can end the year with more money than you started if your medical costs are low.
- Avoid a Big Risk—Many people who are covered by their spouse's insurance drop FEHB coverage. This saves premium costs. However, if you are not enrolled and die suddenly, your spouse cannot ever enroll again. Your best option is to carry an FEHB family policy and drop the spousal insurance.
- Protect Your Retirement—It is not expensive to enroll in the FEHB program for the five years before retirement. Several plans have annual premiums that are about $1,500. These plans cost about $1,000 after tax savings. Some plans give you savings accounts higher than the tax advantaged premium cost.
- Be Sure to Elect a Survivor Annuity for Your Spouse—If you die and your spouse receives no Federal pension, your spouse will lose FEHB coverage forever. If you die while enrolled as self-only, your spouse will also lose coverage.
- Be Wary of Misleading Catastrophic Cost Protection Claims in Plan Summaries—Some plans exclude deductibles, physician copayments, or drug costs in the figure they claim for catastrophic limits. This can understate your risk by thousands of dollars.
- Bargain with Out of Network Providers—Most plans have very low payments for non-preferred providers. You MUST negotiate with these doctors before any expensive procedure to protect yourself. One good tactic is to ask for either their "preferred" or Medicare rate.
- Check Your Brochure—Do not stay in the same plan without reading at least "How We Change" for next year or join a new plan without checking any benefits of importance to your health care.
- Flexible Spending Account—You can only establish your FSA during Open Season. Be sure to consider carefully this important option to reduce your health costs. Almost all employees should set up an FSA.
- Medicare Flexibility at a Low or High Price—The best two arguments for paying the Medicare Part B premium are to preserve your choices over time, as both the FEHB program and Medicare evolve, and to get you low costs for providers who are not in your plan network. This choice is costly in most but not all plans. Check out the plans we rate as lowest cost with Medicare Part B.
- Huge Retiree Cost Savings—Retirees with Medicare Parts A and B can suspend their FEHB enrollment, join a Medicare Advantage plan, and pay only the Medicare premium. They can reenroll in an FEHB plan in the future without penalty, and in the meantime enjoy good catastrophic protection, have low copays, and save thousands in premium costs.
- Dealing with a Known High Expense—There is an exception to our general advice about focusing on overall plan costs, not just one benefit category. If you know for sure that you will need an expensive service, you should look for the answer to "Which plans pay best?" If several plans pay equally well, then you can choose whichever of these is an overall better buy.
Of course, you may have questions that go far beyond our many explanations and the tips above. Please visit Frequently Asked Questions for answers to about a hundred specific questions.