Author Topic: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions  (Read 2213 times)

Riptoast

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Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« on: August 29, 2016, 11:39:20 AM »
I'm a soon-to-be federal employee in Colorado and the FEHB system seems a bit overwhelming as I begin to check it out. Can anyone give me some tips on how to navigate my choice?

It seems like a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA) is the most efficient for me. I am young, healthy, and accustomed to taking care of myself and making my own healthcare decisions. As I understand it, HDHP's often have relatively low premiums and about half of that premium is paid into an HSA, making an HDHP a clear winner in terms of the real premium paid (assuming I would not spend most of what goes into my HSA, and will likely contribute extra into this tax-advantaged account). For example, one plan has a monthly premium of $130, but contributes $62.50 into your HSA every month, making the real cost only $67.50/month. They also have pretty good catastrophic coverage and competitive deductibles. Am I on the right path to making a good decision here?

Also, should I be considering the Federal system of dental, vision, or life insurance options? I'm not currently planning on taking advantage of any of these.

Manguy888

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2016, 11:57:52 AM »
I can only speak to the life insurance option (FEGLI) - I get health insurance through my wife's work. In my scenario, and probably yours, they will auto-enroll you into the life insurance for a 1year salary payout if you die. I think it's about 15$ per pay period. You have a certain amount of time to raise that amount, up to 5x your salary. The cost is not locked in and will rise as you get older.

I found that I could get private life insurance for much less than this, so I dropped the FEGLI plan altogether. FEGLI is great if you have health problems, because there's no medical exam required to get coverage. And since you can't increase your coverage unless there is a rare open enrollment period, people are often reluctant to drop down their coverage. But if you're young and healthy, there's no reason to have FEGLI IMO.

marion10

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2016, 12:35:00 PM »
https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/life-events/memy-family/im-getting-married-or-remarried/#url=Life

You can sign up for  FEGLI life insurance if you get married or have a baby or other qualifying event. So if you need it later, you should be able to get it through FEFLI.  When I was young, I found it reasonably  priced  as as I got older, I didn't need so much. As for the vision and dental- since you pay the fill cost, it is not as good as deal as the health insurance. I look at it as pre-paid vision and dental and it has been worth it to me.

CrispRetirement

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2016, 12:41:50 PM »
For me the standard option with GEHA makes the most sense, but the high deductible option makes sense for a lot of people.

As for the dental, vision, and life insurance - they've never made a whole lot of sense for me. Routine dental visits aren't all that expensive, so the dental coverage wouldn't be worthwhile for me. Also, the vision appointment copay is only $5 through GEHA health plans. You can get optical prescriptions from this appointment and order your glasses cheaply online.

Professor Ecks

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2016, 12:48:08 PM »
As a Fed, there certainly are a lot of choices available for you. To start, you really have to decide on what type of plan you want (HMO, PPO, HDHP, etc.) It sounds like you have done so and are leaning towards the HDHP with an HSA (which seems reasonable based on your description of yourself). So now, you just have to decide which HDHP works best for you.

I am in Kansas City if I recall correctly, we had to regional options and one national option available to us. I am married and have a five year old, so we took deductibles, catastrophic limits, and such into consideration, and all were quite similar. The final decision really came down to two factors for me: monthly premium and HSA management.

I elected to go with GEHA, which I think is a national plan, because they had the lowest premium, and the benefits were comparable to the other plans. But an even more important factor was that they use HSA Bank to manage the HSA. HSA bank allows me to invest the HSA funds via a self-directed TD Ameritrade account, which in turn allows me to buy Vanguard funds with my HSA funds. Most of the Vanguard funds are offered by TD Ameritrade in no-cost ETFs, so that's where my money goes.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is quite a bit of turnover from year-to-year on available plans, especially the region-specific plans. I've been a FED for 7 years, and before I switched to the HDHP, I had to change plans basically every other year because my prior plan was discontinued.

Additionally, like the other post mentioned, you need to take the FEGLI enrollment seriously and determine the best course of action. You cannot change your elections annually like you can with the other types of insurance. You have to have a QLE or wait for an open enrollment (which happens very infrequently).

vitaminsea

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2016, 03:27:54 PM »
As a Fed, there certainly are a lot of choices available for you. To start, you really have to decide on what type of plan you want (HMO, PPO, HDHP, etc.) It sounds like you have done so and are leaning towards the HDHP with an HSA (which seems reasonable based on your description of yourself). So now, you just have to decide which HDHP works best for you.

I am in Kansas City if I recall correctly, we had to regional options and one national option available to us. I am married and have a five year old, so we took deductibles, catastrophic limits, and such into consideration, and all were quite similar. The final decision really came down to two factors for me: monthly premium and HSA management.

I elected to go with GEHA, which I think is a national plan, because they had the lowest premium, and the benefits were comparable to the other plans. But an even more important factor was that they use HSA Bank to manage the HSA. HSA bank allows me to invest the HSA funds via a self-directed TD Ameritrade account, which in turn allows me to buy Vanguard funds with my HSA funds. Most of the Vanguard funds are offered by TD Ameritrade in no-cost ETFs, so that's where my money goes.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is quite a bit of turnover from year-to-year on available plans, especially the region-specific plans. I've been a FED for 7 years, and before I switched to the HDHP, I had to change plans basically every other year because my prior plan was discontinued.

Additionally, like the other post mentioned, you need to take the FEGLI enrollment seriously and determine the best course of action. You cannot change your elections annually like you can with the other types of insurance. You have to have a QLE or wait for an open enrollment (which happens very infrequently).

I would echo this as well. The GEHA HDHP will allow you to place $3350 per year into your HSA account. Since an HSA account rolls over from year to year, this is a great vehicle for savings. You can put the amount into Ameritrade if you don't want to use it for healthcare expenses now. You can always use it later.  Another benefit of the HDHP is the $750.00 per year that the insurance company contributes to your HSA ($3350 - 750 = your yearly contribution).  The HDHP also pays for preventative dental (cleanings) and optical care (yearly exams).  Another additional benefit of the HDHP is the Health Rewards Program. By subscribing to this and using the program you can also net another $150 worth of benefits.  Overall, it is a great deal with a $1500.00 yearly deductible.

An HSA also is tax free contributions, tax free withdrawals, and tax free growth of your account!

JJsfr

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2016, 04:28:01 PM »
FEGLI is a pretty terrible deal for most young, healthy people who could get much more coverage for the same cost. You also get some 'basic' life insurance through FERS.

I also agree that the dental and vision plans don't make a lot of sense.

One of these days I'll stop regularly running into injuries and can swap from a PPO to the HDHP, so I can't help much on the HDHP end.

SomedayStache

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Re: Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) questions
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2016, 08:12:14 AM »
Before you cancel FEGLI life insurance you should make sure that you 1)don't need life insurance at all or 2)are eligible for and obtain whatever privately purchased life insurance you think is appropriate.

It would be terrible to cancel your FEGLI life insurance and then find out that you cannot obtain it elsewhere.  It is true that you cannot obtain or increase FEGLI outside of qualifying life events, but you can always downgrade or cancel it at any time.  Since you have a lot to juggle right now navigating a new job you could just pay the FEGLI premiums for a few months and give yourself breathing room to figure out the best long-term course of action for you.