Colleen M. Murphy
As the federal open season begins, many employees are focused on health plan premiums
and this year’s increases. OPM has reported that the average increase is seven
percent. Many plans had much higher increases (especially the postal premiums),
some actually reduced their premiums, and still others changed their benefits
to limit the increases. As a result, premiums—the dollar amount taken
out of your paycheck for insurance every pay period—can be very deceiving to
federal employees. A very unwelcome surprise.
When choosing a health plan, federal employees
should consider the total cost of their health care. Total cost is the sum of
employee premiums and out-of-pocket expenses less any tax savings from
participating in FSAFEDS.
You may not have any control over health plan premiums,
but here’s how to control your total health care costs with PlanSmartChoice’s medical
each family’s medical services for the year. Hopefully, everyone will get a
physical. Does anyone need specialist care, lab work, or x-rays? Have you
planned a hospitalization or surgery? How many prescriptions do you use? The
cost calculator will estimate your out-of-pocket expenses based on your
personal projections, add annual premiums, and show the total cost of each
medical plan available to you based on plan design (e.g., deductibles).
total health care costs might change considerably if your medical needs change,
so test different scenarios. What if you postpone outpatient surgery for a
year? What about unexpected situations that require an emergency room visit? Or
switching prescriptions from brand name to generic? Many federal employees run two
or three scenarios in the cost calculator before making a final choice.
selecting a health plan, contribute the amount of your out-of-pocket medical costs—plus
any dental and vision expenses—to the Health Care Spending Account (or, if
applicable, Health Savings Account). Last year, almost half of all
PlanSmartChoice users participated in FSAFEDS and, by doing so, saved themselves
an average of $561.
On average, federal employees
spent four to five percent of their annual income on health care in 2010, and
some spent as much as 10 percent. Fortunately, federal employees have help when
it comes to controlling their health care costs. In addition to PlanSmartChoice,
organizations like OPM, Consumers Checkbook, and the health plans all provide
tools. For more information, please visit our web site at www.PlanSmartChoice.com or
become a fan of us on Facebook for up-to-date information.
Colleen M. Murphy is the President and CEO of Asparity Decision Solutions. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have used PlanSmartChoice, the company’s decision support tools, to choose health insurance coverage.