As you may have heard, federal employees are facing an average health insurance premium increase of 8.8% in 2009. To say that some readers are not happy about this increase would be an understatement.
This increase is the largest since 2004. That year, premiums rose an average of 10.6 percent. Insurance premium increases hit a recent peak in 2002, when rates increased by 12.7 percent.
The 8.8 percent average increase includes both the employee’s share and the government’s premium shares. The government typically covers about 70 percent of the total cost of insurance premiums, and enrollees pick up the rest.
The average is somewhat misleading though. Blue Cross standard plan customers comprise almost half of the enrollees in the federal health care program. These plans will have increases that are higher than average: 12.4 percent for families, and 15.1 percent for individuals.
You can do the math for yourself. Your average salary increase in 2010 is probably going to be 2%; if you are a retiree, you are not going to get a cost of living increase. That means that your increase in insurance costs may take up a good portion of your 2010 increase—if you are an active federal employee—and reduce your take home pay if you are a federal retiree.
Here is how your premiums will look with Blue Cross options in 2010 compared to 2009:
||2009 Total Monthly BCBS Premium
||2010 Total Monthly Premium
||Change in Employee Payment
You have several options. You can switch to a less expensive plan or you can pay the higher premium. Check carefully though to find out what the different benefits may be in your area under the plans you are considering.
Part of the reason for the increase is that companies are also adding benefits. While many of these benefits may not help you, they will help others who have the insurance—it’s just that everyone will pay for the service whether they use it or not.
For example, The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Government-wide Service Benefit Plan will waive co-pays on annual physical exams for Standard and Basic Option adult members who complete either their online Blue Health Assessments at www.fepblue.org
, or a print version, as part of the 2010 benefits package.
The company is also adding a "Jump 4 Health" Weight Management Program for children that includes up to 4 nutritional counseling visits at no cost when they use preferred providers.
There is also a new Standard Option benefit that includes waiving co-pays for members who switch from certain brand-name drugs to generic prescriptions purchased in retail stores.
The Blue Cross Standard Option has also decreased the non-preferred professional mental health and substance abuse coinsurance from 40 percent to 35 percent and removed day and lifetime limits.
And here is another benefit that you may not know about: digital amplification. This is now provided under the Blue Cross Standard Option (not the basic option though).
Many readers are considering retirement or they are already retired. This probably means that many readers are probably 55 or older.
Remember those rock concerts you went to in college with the loud bass guitar and amplified sound from every direction? How about enjoying loud rock music with your new headphones that enabled you to hear every note—especially when you turned up the music loud so your musical enjoyment didn’t result in someone calling the cops?
Based on experience with fellow baby boomer friends and colleagues who enjoy loud music, it is sometimes necessary to talk louder and more directly to their face.
In fact, if you are one of the millions of "baby boomers", hearing loss is the third most common problem faced by baby boomers today. If you haven’t noticed this, you are fortunate as it can significantly reduce your quality of life.
Hearing researchers believe that hearing loss in older adults is the result of one or more causes, such as listening to those loud guitar riffs or, perhaps, your family history, or just the fact that you are getting older (how old you actually feel may not count—you are still getting physically older). You should have your hearing evaluated if people seem to mumble, you can hear but don’t understand what people are saying, or if you are over 55. Experts recommend having your hearing checked once a year just as you do your eyes.
Because hearing loss tends to be gradual, effectively treating the problem and correcting it depends on identifying hearing loss in the early stages.
There are several brands that can help if you are experiencing this problem but hearing is one of the most complex and unique sensory perceptions, and everybody’s ear is different. Don’t just pick up something inexpensive in a discount store.
Many readers are undoubtedly fuming over the increase in health insurance costs. If you don’t want to switch to a less expensive program that probably does not provide the same level of benefits as your current plan, you will want to take advantage of the services that your plan offers; no doubt the expanded services covered by your policy are part of the reason your insurance premiums are going up.
The American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and we are already starting to see ads popping up to appeal to the federal workforce such as this one (from a FedSmith advertiser) on federal employee hearing aid insurance benefits
appealing to federal employees in a city largely dominated by the presence of the federal government: Huntsville, Alabama.
If you are getting hit with higher premiums that you cannot avoid, perhaps you should consider taking advantage of some of the services that you may be able to get under your insurance.
Do yourself a favor. Check out the services in your area and, perhaps, those higher health insurance premiums may actually benefit your enjoyment of life.