Frustration Over Higher Insurance Premiums for Federal Employees

By on October 28, 2009 in Current Events with 0 Comments

We asked readers recently: "What is your reaction to the 2010 federal health plan?"

Health insurance premiums are going up next year–an average of 8.8 percent more although some plans will have increases that are quite a bit higher.As we noted at the time, the Office of Personnel Management says that it is not comfortable with the insurance premium increases for next year but that "unfortunately, we’re a victim of the market."

More readers, about 4700 readers weighed in with their opinions than expressed their view on voting in the last presidential election. Obviously, this is a pocketbook issue that hits close to home for many people.

Several conclusions are possible from the results of this survey on the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHB). First, many current and retired federal employees will be considering changing to a different insurance plan.

Second, readers are not happy with the performance of the Office if Personnel Management in its oversight of the program.

Third, most readers would not be interested in a less expensive plan that provided only catastrophic health insurance.

Fourth, most readers are satisfied with the choices available to them under the FEHB.

Here is a summary of the survey results:

1. Will the increase in health insurance premiums for 2010 impact your selection of a health plan for you or your family?

yes: 57.1%

no: 22.8%

not sure: 20.1%

2. Do you think the Office of Personnel Management has done a good job in its oversight of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, including the negotiation of insurance rates for federal employees?

yes: 14.8%

no: 57.5%

not sure: 27.7%

3. Would you seriously consider an option to pay lower insurance premiums for a plan that only provided insurance in the event of a year in which your health insurance costs were substantial (e.g. $5000 or above)?

yes: 17.3%

no: 57.8%

not sure: 24.9%

4. Do you think that the federal health benefits program offers sufficient choices among insurance options?

yes: 53%

no: 36.4%

not sure: 10.6%

We have read through the many comments sent in by readers. Here is a small sample of the most representative comments on each topic.

1. Will the increase in health insurance premiums for 2010 impact your selection of a health plan for you or your family?

  • Satisfied many years with Kaiser, but don’t know now with expected increase in rates.
  • Rising costs always make me comparison shop.
  • I have been very happy with BCBS Basic, but if the price is too high…I can only afford so much, especially since it looks like our raise won’t be much.
  • I know I make good money, but heck, didn’t we have an increase two years ago? I’d like to have more transparency when it comes to increases. Like where does the money go? How come my co-pay is higher than it was last year? Just something to explain why the costs are going astray
  • Still believe in the dependability of using BCBS in my area.
  • I already have the least expensive plan available to me.
  • I’ve been very pleased with Blue Cross and am almost afraid to change.
  • BSBC Federal Standard has served me very well after a gall bladder surgery and two hip replacements since 2003 – I had very little out of pocket so the continued coverage is well worth it.
  • Will shift away from BC/BS after 16 years
  • With no COLA for Social Security or CSRS retirement annuities, it will certainly affect our financial security.
  • My plan covers everything I need. I cannot afford to use a plan that offers less service.

2. Do you think the Office of Personnel Management has done a good job in its oversight of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, including the negotiation of insurance rates for federal employees?

  • OPM has done a very poor job of negotiating for federal employees and need to improve immediately and find someone who can.
  • Their clout should curtail increases better.
  • I feel they’re doing the best they can given the circumstances.
  • If this past year’s initial shocker on costs is any indication, I think they were to complacent.
  • 20 years in the private sector and their rates were far better then the federal govt.
  • OPM should have stood their ground and resisted raising premiums. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
  • OPM doesn’t care about oversight. The have no motive to fight for active or retired federal employees.
  • I think we need to drive harder bargains. We are at the mercy of whom? How do we determine rates and what so of experts do we have working on our behalf?
  • Postal employees get a good deal but what about the rest of us. I had cheaper rates and better coverage in the private sector.
  • I think they are trying to make us pay for the folks that won’t pay under the worthless Health Reform being pushed by this president and his czars.
  • What did they do?

3. Would you seriously consider an option to pay lower insurance premiums for a plan that only provided insurance in the event of a year in which your health insurance costs were substantial (e.g. $5000 or above)?

  • Little value for the average health care user. Great deal for the insurance co.
  • depends on coverage and diffference in premiums
  • We should not have to compromise our health because of $’s. I understand there are people in this nation without insurance, which is a disgrace, but as a Federal employee, we should not be expected to live with less than we deserve.
  • Who wants a $5,000 deductible! Might as well not carry insurance.
  • My husband has serious health problems and I know we would exceed the $5000. Five thousand would cover a lot of premiums.
  • I think that many users would delay routine exams and preventative tests, thus missing problems which would be detrimental to health.
  • That is an interesting concept.
  • I think young, healthy people should have this option.
  • You can get lower rates for car and home owners insurance if you have high deductibles; even disability and Long Term Care with longer waiting periods where the insuree is bearing most or more of the burden.
  • Typically, this is "unpredictable" so no sense in gambling with this vital insurance!!

4. Do you think that the federal health benefits program offers sufficient choices among insurance options?

  • Too many, if they focused on fewer plans they could probably get better price and coverage.
  • We have a great selection!
  • We have so many plans to choose from. It’s a great thing. The rest of the country that are not Federal employees should be so lucky.
  • It may in other areas but in the "rural" area I work in it does not.
  • They should have a married option where both are covered jointly, but only one can receive the benefits. The private sector offers this.
  • I’m convinced that what I have available to me to select is far better than what the average non-federal employee has to select from in the current climate of citizens that don’t have any insurance.
  • There are a lot of choices, but there is also general agreement that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is the best coverage relative to cost. What we could use are more plans that are serious competitors to Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
  • There should be more insurance companies which
    would give more competition.
  • I feel that we should have an option for better dental coverage and vision coverage as well.
  • We, in the federal government, are fortunate to have choices unlike most workers in the private sector.
  • I would like to see a "Self + 1" option.
  • But if they offered fewer plans – they could get better rates because of higher number of participants.
  • OPM needs to negotiate a third plan for just employee and spouse. It makes no sense for me to pay premiums as if 5 or more people are being insured when actually only 2 people are.
  • There were lots more options available in 1985 when I started. Seems many providers have dropped out over the years.
  • I am "rest of US". We don’t have the options that the big cities do. We bascially have the Blues, GEHA, and Mail Handlers to choose from. Our hospital’s pathologists and anestheseologists, only participate with the Blues, so that limits our choice. Remember, if you are hospitalized, you can choose your surgeon, but you can’t choose those other specialists.
  • FEHB offers a cafeteria of plans that are often not available in the private sector- a huge benefit.
  • Here in the SF Bay area we have a good number of plans, but they are all expensive.
  • No because they keep dropping off every year. The prices keep increasing and our benefits continue to get less and less.

Our thanks to the thousands of readers who took the time to participate in this survey on the 2010 federal health care program.

 

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