What Benefits Does my FEHB Plan Cover?

Most plans limit reimbursement for most of the following services. Current employees can cover any of them through a Flexible Spending Account.

  • Dental care—We indicate which health insurance plans pay for routine and accidental dental expenses and show the better benefits with a "Yes." Our Guide provides dollar ratings of these plans along with the standalone FEDVIP dental plans. Those standalone plans charge a premium but offer stronger benefits. Nonetheless, our ratings show that for most people joining an FEHB plan with modest dental benefits is a low-cost option.
  • Vision care—All plans pay for medically necessary care of your eyes, such as cataract surgery. No national plans pay for eyeglasses or contact lenses, although several of them have arranged for discounts at some chains. A few pay for examinations to determine the prescription you need. Among HMOs, many pay just for an "Exam," and some for most of the cost of glasses or contact lenses ("Yes" in our Guide). You may want to join one of the standalone vision plans but a combination of prudent shopping and a Flexible Spending Account will often match the value of the standalone plans.
  • Chiropractic services—Most national plans and some HMO plans reimburse some chiropractic services. The medical establishment has traditionally viewed chiropractors unfavorably because chiropractors are not trained as medical doctors. However, chiropractic services have been proven useful in treating some problems of the muscles, back, and joints.
  • Acupuncture—Another non-traditional treatment that an increasing number of plans reimburse, often for a dozen or more visits.
  • Hearing aids—Most plans pay for diagnostic hearing tests performed by a physician or audiologist, and all pay for medically necessary treatment for hearing problems. At OPM's urging, most plans now pay for hearing aids for both adults and children, and others for hearing aids for children only. In our Guide, a "Yes" indicates both a relatively generous allowance, and coverage of both children and adults.
  • Infertility treatment—Very few plans pay for the costs of in vitro fertilization or for the most advanced and expensive infertility treatments such as assisted reproductive technology procedures. However, many plans pay for fertility drugs or for treatments such as artificial insemination. Generosity varies so you should compare brochures or consult providers before choosing a plan.
  • Diabetic supplies—Some plans cover drugs but do not cover the cost of syringes and/or special testing supplies and kits needed by diabetics. Even for the plans listed as "Yes," a diabetic should check brochures to determine the precise coverage the plans provide.
  • Durable medical equipment—All national plans pay for prostheses, or artificial limbs. Some plans limit such coverage. Some plans also fail to pay for the purchase or rental costs of hospital beds, walkers, and other equipment you may need while recuperating from surgery or illness. Others pay only a limited benefit, such as 50 percent of the cost. This is another area to compare brochures and consult providers.
  • Nurse advice—Most plans let you call a service to discuss medical problems that confuse you. Nurse advisors can greatly assist you in deciding, for example, whether to call a doctor and, if so, which specialty you need. Nurses can also advise you on handling minor medical problems of all kinds, on compliance with your medication needs, and diet and health, and on other issues. For plans that offer this, we enter the telephone number of the advisory service.