Although its known as the seven-year itch — a time when many marriages or relationships come apart — some experts and statisticians think the magic make-or-break point is actually more like four to five years. And that it also applies to health plans like the giant Federal Employees Health Benefits Program which is ending an extended hunting season next Monday.
If you’ve been with your significant other for four to seven years you’ve either cleared a hurdle — the divorce or breakup bump — or hard times may be ahead.
By the same token, if you’ve been with the same health plan for at least five years, things change. You two have very likely grown apart and maybe need to change. Like this week. The pros say that even after four or five years with the same plan, it may be time for a change. Maybe because it has simply become too expensive for what you need. Your current health plan may well have been best for you two or three years ago. But times change. So have you and your health. Or family size or situation. It is very possible that your favorite doctor or doctors are also in the network of a much less expensive plan — maybe the basic version of your current health plan — with lower premiums. Health insurance experts says if you’ve been in the same plan for five to seven years, you are probably in the wrong plan. You should deal with it before the health insurance hunting season ends at COB Monday.
The good news is that it is still a good plan and provides good-to-excellent coverage. And the government will pay most of the premium.
The bad news is your plan, and you, have changed. Both in premiums, coverage and needs. You may be paying higher premiums than necessary — to the tune of $1,000 to $4,000 per year — when you could get the same, sometimes better, coverage for a lot less. Often with the same health plan but in a different option of that plan.
So what do you do? Go online and checkout the Office of Personnel Management’s site with health plan guidance, or get Checkbook’s ($11.95) Guide to Health Plans For Federal Employees available at many drug stores.
Or better yet, Walton Francis, author of the Checkbook guide, was our guest on yesterday’s Your Turn radio show. He made the case why many, if not most, people in the FEHBP are in the wrong plan. Wrong in the sense it costs too much. Here’s the checklist he suggested you use this week, or this weekend, to find your one true (for now) health plan for 2021. Also click here to see if your agency had subscribed to Checkbook’s online guide which means you can shop from home or work.
Here’s you suggested guide to find the best health plan for you and your family before the open season ends Monday:
Task 1: Check to see how your existing plan fits with your health and your family’s health:
- Are your doctors going to be in the plan network next year—call their offices?
- Download the plan brochure from the plan website, the OPM website, or the Checkbook website (guidetohealthplans.org).
- From the plan brochure — has anything changed that will be a big problem or a big plus next year? See Section 2 on how plan changes and if you are on Medicare see Section 9 on Medicare coordination because any change in that is probably not mention in Section 2.
- Also from plan brochure—for any big medical procedure you expect next year, how good is the plan benefit? Check Section 5 or just do a search of the PDF brochure file on a key word.
Task 2: Even if you are satisfied, compare your plans to at least two or three others:
- If you have Checkbook’s Guide, used it to find two or three plans that are big money savers for families like yours. This takes about one minute once you have the Checkbook tool open.
- Otherwise, use the OPM website to look for plans with lower premiums than you are paying now. You can’t sensibly choose based on premiums alone, but they can help you find a plan that costs less and has better benefits.
- Even if you do nothing else, visit the website of the plan you are in to see if the same company offers a better plan. Most of the big carriers have four or five different plans. You may not even know that all those plans exist if you don’t pay careful attention next year.
Be sure you look at a few plans rated as good buys. Here are a handful of plans that Checkbook rates as good buys for most people with likely savings in the range of two thousand dollars a year or more: CareFirst, GEHA, and MHBP high deductible (HDHP) plans, Kaiser Basic and Standard plans, Blue Cross FEP Blue Focus, GEHA Elevate, and NALC and APWU Consumer Driven (CDHP) plans.
Nearly Useless Factoid
By Alazar Moges
Scientists have discovered a species of jellyfish that has the ability to be technically biologically immortal. The species of immortal jellyfish is called turritopsis nutricula and it has the amazing ability to revert itself back to a state before it’s sexually mature when it is injured, sick, or threatened by predators.
Source: Penn State University