How to use Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees

We prepared the Guide because we know that choosing the right plan can be difficult, even if you have time to read hundreds of pages in plan brochures. The coverage details are hard to understand and trying to compare multiple benefit details simultaneously is very difficult. As a result, it is often hard to determine which plan is best for you. Many employees depend on advice from their friends or stick with a "name brand" or the plan sponsored by their own union. However, that choice can waste hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which administers the program, sets standards for plan benefits and for information in plan brochures. The complexity of comparing plans is substantial. We have studied and restudied each plan and have checked many details with plan officials. But we have undoubtedly missed a few limitations or special coverages. So, before making a final choice, you should compare the brochures of several plans.

We structure the Guide's advice and information as follows:

  • How can Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees help me?
  • "How the FEHB program works" provides background information on the FEHB program.
  • "How to Compare FEHB plan costs" explains how and why some choices can save so much money.
  • "What Federal Annuitants need to know about the FEHB program and Medicare" provides cost ratings that consider higher costs for the elderly, and the effects of enrolling in Medicare Part A or Parts A and B.
  • "FEHB Plan Coverage Features" provides basic information on plan benefits for hospital, medical, and prescription drug expenses and addresses features such as skilled nursing and mental health coverage.
  • "Should I purchase a standalone FEDVIP Dental or Vision Plan?" compares standalone plans with each other and with the dental, vision, and hearing aid coverage in the health insurance plans.
  • "Types of FEHB Plans" explains the various types of plans and how they affect your ability to use the provider of your choice and to achieve additional savings.
  • "FEHB Plan Quality" describes several measures of quality of plan service and presents quality ratings for all plans.
  • "How much money can I save by switching FEHB plans" explains how premiums and out of pocket spending can be tax advantaged and how much employees can save.
  • "Our Methods and Data Sources" explains the information we use to create our ratings.

We rate health plans by their likely cost to you, considering your pay system, employment or retirement status, family size, age, health status, location, and other factors. For example, we present information on premium cost to employees using the "premium conversion" tax-advantaged basis available to employees, but not retirees. After answering questions regarding family size, age, retirement status, health status, zip code, pay system, and several other factors users are taken to a summary ratings table for their area and then have the option to choose whether to look at tables providing detailed cost comparisons, cost sharing, coverage features, plan flexibility, or plan quality for plans.