Author Topic: Calling federal employees: which insurance?  (Read 3286 times)

giggles

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Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« on: July 27, 2017, 08:08:34 PM »
Going to be enrolling in federal employee health, dental, and vision insurance for the first time.  Help! Which plan did you pick and why?

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2017, 08:29:41 PM »
We did blue cross blue shield basic.  All of the local hospitals and docs are in network providers around here so there was no benefit getting the higher priced PPO.  Also, I see a chiro and you get more chiro visits w/ Basic even though it is a cheaper plan.  I take a very high cost medication so I did not want a high deductible plan or a plan with co-insurance for prescriptions.

I'm open to hearing from any feds that went with a high deductible plan with an HSA though that had low out of pocket maximums to make it worth it.  I could use the tax benefit of the HSA.  Last time I checked though, I'd spend a fortune on my meds such that it wasn't worth it.

kendallf

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2017, 08:54:47 PM »
See this thread for discussion of the HDHP and HSA options.. if you're reasonably healthy they may be your best option.

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/any-gs-federalgoverment-employees-with-hdhphsa/msg1621565/#msg1621565

MountainTown

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2017, 09:44:14 PM »
I used to do Blue Cross Blue Shield basic. A very good plan and really not that bad....way cheaper than the cadillac BCBS.

Now i'm on my wife's but my last year I did Geha(Standard) I think. The premiums were way cheaper, the co- pays were cheaper...I wish I would have been on it sooner. I am not sure if they still do but they used to do the high deductible plans as well.

Of course if you're really healthy, go for one of the HSA plans. They really are a sweet way to deduct taxes.

Catbert

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2017, 11:40:13 AM »
I always recommend Kaiser if they are in your area and you don't have critical relations with your current physicians.

Kaiser is great b/c it requires no paperwork or insurance submissions.  You doctor is an employee of Kaiser so there is never a disconnect between what the doctor is recommending and what insurance will allow. 

doggyfizzle

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2017, 12:22:07 PM »
I used to do Blue Cross Blue Shield basic. A very good plan and really not that bad....way cheaper than the cadillac BCBS.

Now i'm on my wife's but my last year I did Geha(Standard) I think. The premiums were way cheaper, the co- pays were cheaper...I wish I would have been on it sooner. I am not sure if they still do but they used to do the high deductible plans as well.

Of course if you're really healthy, go for one of the HSA plans. They really are a sweet way to deduct taxes.

I'm on GEHA Standard Family right now and couldn't be happier with it.  I was on the GEHA High (Cadillac) plan in 2016, but dropped down to Standard for 2017.  Once my son gets a bit older (~5 years or so), we may look into the GEHA HDHP+HSA, which passes through $1200/year into the HSA for us.

Also went with GEHA for Dental and VSP for vision - Fed VSP vision coverage is incredible and reasonably priced (in my opinion) for what you get.

wenchsenior

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2017, 02:57:40 PM »
We did blue cross blue shield basic.  All of the local hospitals and docs are in network providers around here so there was no benefit getting the higher priced PPO.  Also, I see a chiro and you get more chiro visits w/ Basic even though it is a cheaper plan.  I take a very high cost medication so I did not want a high deductible plan or a plan with co-insurance for prescriptions.

I'm open to hearing from any feds that went with a high deductible plan with an HSA though that had low out of pocket maximums to make it worth it.  I could use the tax benefit of the HSA.  Last time I checked though, I'd spend a fortune on my meds such that it wasn't worth it.

We're on the same. Almost every doctor in our city takes it.  High deductible isn't a great option because I have chronic health conditions, requiring a fair battery of tests every year.

crimwell

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2017, 03:58:53 PM »
We have done Blue Cross Cadillac, Blue Cross regular (current) and GEHA. GEHA was cheaper, didn't notice any difference in terms of preferred provider choices BUT we had a big medical emergency during that time that involved a long hospital stay. GEHA randomly and inexplicably denied A LOT of lab charges, based on weird reasons like they don't pay for automatic lab tests. It added up a lot, like more than the substantial difference between GEHA and Blue Cross yearly total charges.

Currently have the cheaper Blue Cross. I wish I could convince my wife to get one of the high deductible health plans with HSAs but she won't do it
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 04:01:34 PM by crimwell »

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2017, 08:42:38 AM »
We have done Blue Cross Cadillac, Blue Cross regular (current) and GEHA. GEHA was cheaper, didn't notice any difference in terms of preferred provider choices BUT we had a big medical emergency during that time that involved a long hospital stay. GEHA randomly and inexplicably denied A LOT of lab charges, based on weird reasons like they don't pay for automatic lab tests. It added up a lot, like more than the substantial difference between GEHA and Blue Cross yearly total charges.

Currently have the cheaper Blue Cross. I wish I could convince my wife to get one of the high deductible health plans with HSAs but she won't do it

Yeah, we used to have GEHA, and we thought the lower premiums were great.  Until my doctor thought I needed a MRI for something, and they fought him on it for nine months.  And then they dropped a bunch of our providers off of their network, at which point we went back to BCBS basic. 

kimmarg

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2017, 11:14:41 AM »
Another vote for BCBS basic.  They're great. Every doc around takes it. There's a co-pay but no deductible and you can use your FSA for the copays. Most everyone I know is on this plan. My entire pregnancy was $175 copay for the hospital and I think $14 copay for one of the shots.

I tried GEHA one year and while it was cheaper it was hellishly awful for me. Like the poster above they wanted me to drive over 2 hours for an MRI when there were multiple options available 20min away and fighting with hours on the phone to get a prescription filled for migraine meds I'd been on for years. I haven't heard of anyone who likes them who's needed to make any substantial claim.

Vision/Dental - very much depends on what dentist/optometrist you want to go to. I'm on MetLife Dental (I picked the dentist based on this). I'm on VSP vision because that's the one my eye doc takes and I'm very loyal to my eye doc.  Do the math on both these plans. For me, Dental is a wash vs just paying for 2 cleanings a year but because it's taken out of my check it's already paid for so I'm more motivated to go.  Vision I didn't have for a long while because it wasn't cost effective but I finally found a combo that works for me. For vision to be worth it you either need many family members with simple prescription or one person with a very high prescription (me). Again read the fine print. E.g. high index is only covered below -6.00 diopters and only the 1.67 high index not the new 1.74

« Last Edit: July 29, 2017, 11:16:30 AM by kimmarg »

kimmarg

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2017, 11:22:08 AM »
Also whatever life event or new job is making you eligible to enroll also most likely makes you eligible for:

FSAFEDS -

1)flex spending account.: This is a little understood gem! Buying glasses? copay for doc? tax free. they take the money out of your check and then you either submit the receipt or for copay you can set it up to be automatic. The new servicer has an iPhone app to so you can just take a photo of the receipt and the $$ is back in your account a day or two later. DONT LET PEOPLE TELL YOU THIS IS A HASSLE. It's FREE MONEY! And acutally it /used/ to be a hassle so anyone who's been around doesn't want to bother, but like I said with the online/app options now it's super easy. Don't remember the max but you can carry over $500 year to year.

2.)Dependent care flex spending account: just like above but for daycare/afterschool/elder care. My provider signs my iPhone screen and I get the $$ tax free.  $5k max per year, no carryover

FELGI - Federal Employees group life insurance policy. You can sign up for a qualifying life event. I'm not sure it's the cheapest/best but it's easist with no health info etc.

TSP- Thrift Savings Plan aka the gov 401k.  Please put in at least hte match! which is up to 6% of salary I think (1% automatic plus an addition 50% match up to 6%, *I think*)

MountainTown

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2017, 11:21:26 PM »
TSP is actually just 5% match FYI.

I second the vote for FSA. Another added benefit is that it deducts our share of FICA tax as well(retirement contributions just deduct off of income tax).

Also on the FSA, they have paperless billing. So you don't even need to submit claims. Basically whenever your doc submits a claim, the health insurance company sends their claim to the FSA provider and then they pay. Easy peasy.

charis

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2017, 07:32:04 AM »
I think that a lot of people who assume that they would pay more on a HDHP with HSA have not done the math all the way through.  If you anticipate a large amount of medical costs, it generally works out in your favor on a HDHP.  We have Aetna HDHP family, hit our 3K deductible in May, but you get half of the deductible ($1500) tax free put into your HSA.  Which means we will owe $1500 and 10% of health costs for the rest of the year.  This is a very high cost health year for us (bi-weekly doctor appoints and surgery coming up) and I thank goodness that we have the HDHP.  Each doctor's appt is now 10-11 bucks and our premiums are very low.

*BUT* we also get to max our HSA every year and obviously have well more than 1500 saved in our HSA in just one year. That's a decent amount of tax advantage space we have in addition to 401ks and IRAs. 

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2017, 08:36:48 AM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2017, 05:40:12 PM »
I think that a lot of people who assume that they would pay more on a HDHP with HSA have not done the math all the way through.  If you anticipate a large amount of medical costs, it generally works out in your favor on a HDHP.  We have Aetna HDHP family, hit our 3K deductible in May, but you get half of the deductible ($1500) tax free put into your HSA.  Which means we will owe $1500 and 10% of health costs for the rest of the year.  This is a very high cost health year for us (bi-weekly doctor appoints and surgery coming up) and I thank goodness that we have the HDHP.  Each doctor's appt is now 10-11 bucks and our premiums are very low.

*BUT* we also get to max our HSA every year and obviously have well more than 1500 saved in our HSA in just one year. That's a decent amount of tax advantage space we have in addition to 401ks and IRAs.

I'll take a look at that one again.  How's the network? $3k is a reasonable deductible.  What's the out of pocket max?

charis

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2017, 08:38:10 PM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.
I don't understand this, is the network different for HDHPs in your area? I wasn't aware that it was different for PPO coverage with the same carrier.

charis

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2017, 08:47:34 PM »
I think that a lot of people who assume that they would pay more on a HDHP with HSA have not done the math all the way through.  If you anticipate a large amount of medical costs, it generally works out in your favor on a HDHP.  We have Aetna HDHP family, hit our 3K deductible in May, but you get half of the deductible ($1500) tax free put into your HSA.  Which means we will owe $1500 and 10% of health costs for the rest of the year.  This is a very high cost health year for us (bi-weekly doctor appoints and surgery coming up) and I thank goodness that we have the HDHP.  Each doctor's appt is now 10-11 bucks and our premiums are very low.

*BUT* we also get to max our HSA every year and obviously have well more than 1500 saved in our HSA in just one year. That's a decent amount of tax advantage space we have in addition to 401ks and IRAs.

I'll take a look at that one again.  How's the network? $3k is a reasonable deductible.  What's the out of pocket max?
Out of pocket max is just under 7k I think. As for network, our providers didn't change when we switched plans so I'm not aware of network issues that others have mentioned.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2017, 04:31:11 AM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.
I don't understand this, is the network different for HDHPs in your area? I wasn't aware that it was different for PPO coverage with the same carrier.

The carriers that offer HDHPs (Aetna, for example) have very skimpy networks in our area.  I haven't checked to see if the network differs between their HDHP and their regular plan.

charis

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2017, 05:23:23 AM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.
I don't understand this, is the network different for HDHPs in your area? I wasn't aware that it was different for PPO coverage with the same carrier.

The carriers that offer HDHPs (Aetna, for example) have very skimpy networks in our area.  I haven't checked to see if the network differs between their HDHP and their regular plan.
I don't believe it does.  Now I understand the issue.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2017, 07:34:19 AM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.
I don't understand this, is the network different for HDHPs in your area? I wasn't aware that it was different for PPO coverage with the same carrier.

The carriers that offer HDHPs (Aetna, for example) have very skimpy networks in our area.  I haven't checked to see if the network differs between their HDHP and their regular plan.
I don't believe it does.  Now I understand the issue.

My concern was also switching from BCBS to Aetna, among other concerns.  Last time I checked the premium savings weren't enough to justify the switch but I'll certainly delve into it again.

charis

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Re: Calling federal employees: which insurance?
« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2017, 08:54:47 AM »
One of the reasons we haven't gone with a HDHP is that because we live in a rural area, the networks are too narrow.  We'd be driving 1 1/2 to 3 hrs for some providers, and wouldn't necessarily use the ones we like.  The other reason is that, math notwithstanding, the high deductibles freak out my wife.
I don't understand this, is the network different for HDHPs in your area? I wasn't aware that it was different for PPO coverage with the same carrier.

The carriers that offer HDHPs (Aetna, for example) have very skimpy networks in our area.  I haven't checked to see if the network differs between their HDHP and their regular plan.
I don't believe it does.  Now I understand the issue.

My concern was also switching from BCBS to Aetna, among other concerns.  Last time I checked the premium savings weren't enough to justify the switch but I'll certainly delve into it again.

Do your current providers not take Aetna insurance? We had one issue with a dentist who was out of network, but she has since started taking it.  The premium saving surely isn't enough to justify the switch, but paired with the the tax-free HSA savings and employer contributions, it's a different story.  We have saved 21K+ in our HSA in three years, with some not insignificant withdrawals during a couple of those years.  I can't imagine a reason, at this point, to go back to an HMO.