Author Topic: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?  (Read 3471 times)

norainmozambique

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« on: August 06, 2017, 03:55:53 PM »
Hey all, looking for some advice here, as I'm just delving into the world of health insurance for the first time, and it's a bit overwhelming to say the least. 

I just started a federal job in Colorado, and need to figure out my insurance.  This is the first time I've had options, so I'm looking for some advice.  I'm 27 years old, single, female, generally pretty healthy.  I'm looking for something that covers preventative care, women's health and birth control, and hopefully some counseling sessions as I'm dealing with adjustments coming back to the States after serving in the Peace Corps.  I'm not anticipating any major medical issues coming up.

In my area, it looks like you can do Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, GEHA, Humana, Kaiser, MHBP, NALC, or United Health Care.  Anyone have any experience with these companies in Colorado?  The people at my office seem to love Blue Cross Blue Shield, but I am also interested in getting a plan with lower premiums.  However, I've run into opinions on the internet saying Aetna or GEHA are great because of the low premiums, until you actually need them to pay for something, and then they're a headache to deal with.  Can anyone speak to this?  Is it worth going with the recommended Blue Cross Blue Shield, or should I do more research.  Does anyone have any experience with Kaiser?  They're much cheaper than the other options, but people are telling me not to choose a plan where I can't "shop around".

I'm also interested in looking at a plan with an HSA, but probably not until I can do some more research.  I need to understand more how they work and if it would be worth it for me.  I also don't have large savings at the moment, but I'm expecting to change that now that I have a salary.

I'm leaning towards not getting any dental insurance, since I've never had many issues and it looks like I can get cleanings as part of preventative care.  However, I've heard people say both things: 1) that the dental insurance isn't that good and not really worth it, and 2) that dental problems are SO expensive, and you should always grab dental insurance.

Basically, any advice would be appreciated, especially direct experiences with the different companies in Colorado.

kimmarg

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 750
  • Location: Northern New England
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2017, 08:54:17 PM »
There was just a thread on this a few weeks ago. I and most everyone I know has Blue Cross, the cheaper option ("Basic"). Been very happy with it. Also if you just got the job today realize a few things:

You can sign up for The following ONLY* when hired:
life insurance
* there are VERY rare open seasons maybe every 5 years or so

You can sign up for the following or change your plan EVERY YEAR (in Nov to take effect in Jan)
Dental Insurance
Vision Insurance
Health Insurance
Flex spending account for medical expenses
Flex spending account for dependent care

You can change the following every pay period:
tax widtholding
direct deposit allocation
TSP amount

You can change the following anytime:
TSP beneficiary
life insurance beneficiary
TSP assest allocation

So go search the last thread, but realize the best course of action right now if you're healthy may be to just sort of pick something for medical insurance and realize you can change at teh end of the year after you've been able to dive into the details and are less overwhelmed. (because yes the forms are crazy).  Do take the time to consider sign up or waive the life insurance though!

CapLimited

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 35
  • Age: 55
  • Location: District of Columbia
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2017, 10:30:57 AM »
I am a Fed and had Blue Cross FEP for years until just this year, when I switched to Kaiser.  I'm really happy with Kaiser, for a couple of reasons.  First, in my area (DC), there is a Kaiser center that has everything but a few specialists under one roof, so I can get everything taken care of in one trip.  Second, Kaiser is both the insurer and provider, so they tend not to "over-doctor" you to increase their reimbursements.  My Kaiser doctor is happy to see me once a year unless I have problems, unlike the doctor I had with Blue Cross who wanted to see me quarterly to monitor a relatively minor issue.

Dental insurance is relatively cheap compared to paying the full cost of a crown when you bust a tooth.  Also, Blue Cross FEP alone only pays a few dollars per checkup, so you actually end up paying the balance for cleaning, X-rays, etc.  It's not much more to get the dental insurance, and then you pay little or nothing for preventative care.  Definitely recommend.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2017, 10:37:57 AM by CapLimited »

Catbert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2074
  • Location: Southern California
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2017, 03:55:45 PM »
I am a Fed and had Blue Cross FEP for years until just this year, when I switched to Kaiser.  I'm really happy with Kaiser, for a couple of reasons.  First, in my area (DC), there is a Kaiser center that has everything but a few specialists under one roof, so I can get everything taken care of in one trip.  Second, Kaiser is both the insurer and provider, so they tend not to "over-doctor" you to increase their reimbursements.  My Kaiser doctor is happy to see me once a year unless I have problems, unlike the doctor I had with Blue Cross who wanted to see me quarterly to monitor a relatively minor issue.

[/quote

I'm a retired Federal employee who's had Kaiser in So Cal for hmmm...40 years.  As CapLimited says it's great b/c there is never any paperwork or bills to deal with.  Never arguments between your physician and insurance company over treatment.  Also perfect for someone like yourself with no ongoing health issues for other reasons why you need to keep your current provider.

Hopper

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 41
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2017, 05:48:43 AM »
I am a generally healthy fed in DC too with a similar story to CapLimited - I used BCBS for years as everyone said it was "the best."  Switched to Kaiser several years ago, and honestly, its been great.  Saved a ton of money.  Easy to use (at least here- lots of facilities, easy to navigate system and make appointments, no stressful bills with out of network issues that I had with BCBS).   I do not love all the Kaiser doctors I have encountered,  but at least around here there are plenty of choices for doctors in the system.

Financially speaking, Slow2Fire seems to have it right- the GEHA HDHP is cheaper than Kaiser and you get the HSA savings.  I will be switching for next year.  If I don't care for it, back to Kaiser for me!

JJ-

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 320
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2017, 12:57:15 PM »
I'm a Fed in CO and have used both GEHA HDHP and Standard. Currently on standard as they pay all routine maternity/delivery without a deductible as we are expecting a child this year and didn't want to eat the deductible + copay/coins on the HDHP.

I have no complaints about GEHA. The people who complain I've found pay don't understand that even after factoring in the deductible, it is still cheaper than BCBS basic. They (GEHA and BCBS) both use the United network, so you'll get the same providers. BCBS does provide better "incentives" and ancillary benefits (check out dental differences for an example), but has the higher premium.

Miss Tash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 62
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2017, 08:37:45 PM »
I'm with a private company in Colorado and have had both Humana and United (currently) with HDHP and HSAs.  I wish my company could go with  Kaiser because most of my friends here who have it really like it.  Since you're new here and don't already have a doc you like it would be great for you.  I really liked Humana but they got too expensive for our little outfit. 
This year I maxed out my deductible (broken clavicle) and United paid up all my bills without batting an eye.  I guess I have dental with them but all it really does is negotiate down to a lower price and provide two cleanings a year.
I like the HDHP with HSA option for single, healthy people.  If I still had kids in the house I might rethink HMO though.  I currently have 5 years of max out of pocket expenses in my HSA account that I hope to never use.  The money is managed by a company called Optum and provides okay returns. 
When I retire (soon!) I will keep the United coverage through the broker my company uses, unless by some miracle, the ACA is resurrected and I can go on an exchange plan cheaper.

goobdiddy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2017, 09:11:32 PM »
Consumer Checkbook has a very thorough guide to the FEHB plans:  https://www.checkbook.org/newhig2/hig.cfm

It does cost $10, but it was worth it me to distill everything down and make it easier to choose between all of the options... Much faster than reading through all of the plan brochures.


Fomerly known as something

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1173
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Federal Health Insurance - HELP?
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2017, 03:26:42 PM »
I used BCBS for years because everyone else did.  Until they wouldn't cover my $300 women's yearly health tests because the week before they decided to cover only labs sent to lab corp and not to quest.  I switched to Aenta at first their consumer driven health plan and now their HDHP/HSA option for the last 3 years.  I've never had billing issues with them so have been pleased from that standpoint.