Open Season Exchange 2022: Recovery expert Walt Francis on how to narrow your FEHB search

If you look at all 271 health plan options available for 2023 under the federal employee health benefits program, it can seem overwhelming. How do you choose the right plan with so many different options?

The answer may not be as complicated as it seems. Walter Francis, a federal health policy analyst and author of the annual Consumer Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, said there are plenty of resources to help…

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If you look at all 271 health plan options available for 2023 under the federal employee health benefits program, it can seem overwhelming. How do you choose the right plan with so many different options?

The answer may not be as complicated as it seems. Walter Francis, a federal health policy analyst and author of the annual Consumer Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, said there are plenty of resources to help federal employees and retirees whittle the daunting number down to just a handful of options. Let’s limit.

The FEHB “is set up to really make it easy to find the plans that are most likely to be useful to you,” Francis said. Federal News Network Open Season Exchange 2022, “There’s no real excuse. You don’t need to be a health insurance expert. There are guides you can watch online on your home computer or your office computer, written in plain English that is understandable.

One way for FEHB participants to start narrowing down those choices is to first consider what they’ll need to cover in the next year as much as they can plan ahead of time. Francis gave an example of a participant who may specifically need coverage related to maternal health care.

“You can see two or three or four or five brochures within five minutes, and do a search on the word ‘motherhood. And you’ll find which ones pay for all your maternity costs, which is a lot, but not all,” Francis said.

Another way to narrow down health options for FEHB is to start with a preferred doctor or other health care provider. Some may have had the same doctor for a long time, and changing carriers may change whether or not the doctor remains in their network.

“It’s worth a phone call to the doctor’s office [to ask], ‘What plan or plans will you be in next year?’ Because you definitely want to know if your doctor is going to stick with your plan,” Francis said.

Finally, FEHB participants can keep it simple and start by comparing a few different plan options that have lower than average health premium rates.

“You don’t want to make a choice based on premium alone, but you can ask yourself, ‘Which plan has the lower premiums?’ And then take a look at some of them, and see how they compare,” Francis said. “Use something that makes sense to you and your family to narrow down your choices.”

[subhed] Participating in open season can save money

Taking a look at the available options will not only help participants get the coverage they need, making changes to health insurance enrollment can also result in cost savings for FEHB enrollees. According to Francis, FEHB participants can save up to $2,000 annually if they switch health insurance providers. Making changes to health care options in the program only occurs during a certain time each year. This year’s open season window begins on November 14 and runs through December 12, during which time participants can make changes to their enrollment for 2023.

Francis said there are some types of cost savings that some FEHB participants may not be aware of and that may also be time sensitive. For example, for retirees in the FEHB program, it becomes a question of whether or not to enroll in Medicare Part B. Annuitants can enroll in Medicare Part B, but after age 65, they must pay a late enrollment penalty.

“We’re up to about 20 different plans now that pay all or part of your Medicare Part B premiums, if you have parts A and B and you’re in that particular federal employee health plan. It’s a waste of money.” Kind of,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to get subsidies while you’re with the plan family includes that you may not even have realized.”

Some participants may consider other ways to save money on health care costs, such as starting a health savings account under a high-deductible plan.

“There are about a dozen of these in the FEHB,” Francis said. “It is a key aspect of the programme, which includes national schemes as well as a number of local schemes.”

Francis said participants can add voluntary contributions to a tax-free health savings account, which reduces a participant’s taxable income. FEHB participants who have this option may continue to add to their account as long as they are currently active federal employees.

“When you retire, you can’t add money to your Health Savings Account. But until that time, [if you have continued adding to it]It has already reached a major self-sustaining and growing size,” he said.

The cost savings in the FEHB could be even more significant for 2023, when health premium rates for enrollees will increase by an average of 8.7%. But Francis stressed the fact that the increase is an average – meaning that some plans are going up more than the average, and some are going up less than the average. It becomes even more important to watch it during the open season.

“We’ve found that there are a lot of plans and those plans — which were great to start with — have grown less than average. So there’s been some great buying in this program,” Francis said.

But ultimately, it’s about considering the coverage that participants and their dependents will need over the next year, he said. Even if participants’ current plans meet their needs, it is still worthwhile to take advantage of the open season.

“It is extremely important to look at your health and the health of your family members before making any plans,” Francis said. “The benefit you depend on may be found in a better version in some other plan.”

Check out all the sessions from Federal News Network Open Season Exchange 2022,

3 Tips to Help You Compare FEHB Enrollment Options

Here are three ways federal health policy analyst Walter Francis suggests to research federal employee health benefit plan options and compare coverage and pricing:

  • Use a keyword for the type of coverage you need, such as “maternity,” to find some enrollment options that will cover your costs.
  • Start with a preferred health care provider and see what enrollment options they have in their network.
  • Filter enrollment options by health premium cost to consider what matters most to your budget.

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