- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

When the federal health-insurance open season rolls around in November, federal and postal employees, their survivors and, in some cases their ex-spouses will have a couple new choices.

Both of them are optional, and both of them take effect in January.

• Dental/vision insurance: This has been at the top of the wish lists of many feds for many years, but health-insurance companies have not been allowed to improve either benefit because their added cost would have sent premiums through the roof.

The solution is that the government will pick one or more health plans that will offer an array of dental/vision benefits. The catch is that unlike the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), of which Uncle Sam pays about 72 percent of the total premium, the dental/vision plan’s premium will be completely the purchaser’s responsibility.

The Office of Personnel Management will select the plan and the premium in the coming months, and is expected to announce the decision by late August.

• Is there a high-deductible health-insurance plan in your future?

The Bush administration hopes so, and officials think the high-deductible, low-premium plans will catch on. They see it as a way for people to save money by more carefully managing their health care.

It operates like a high-deductible auto-insurance plan. The higher the deductible, or the amount you are willing to pay out of pocket, the lower your premiums.

Opponents say the high-deductible concept, if it catches on, could split the federal health program into two groups: the “haves,” younger workers in good health who could gravitate to high deductibles, and the “have nots,” older employees or those in poor health who would stick with traditional health plans.

If that happens, the process of “adverse selection,” they argue, would drive up premiums in traditional plans.

High-deductible federal health-plan options have been around for a couple years. Only a fraction — about 6,000 — of the 9 million who are eligible for the FEHBP have enrolled in them.

That could change when more plans are expected to offer a high-deductible option and as more people understand how they work.

Truth in packaging

Performance ratings soon will determine pay raises for civilians with Defense, Homeland Security and many other departments. With that in mind, consider a couple of interesting performance-report comments sent in by G.H., a retired fed. He got them off the Internet and they are, reportedly, from federal supervisors about their employees.

Two of the best:

• ” … works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap …”

• “He doesn’t have ulcers, but he’s a carrier.”

Fortunately, fitness reports about personalities in the press are not public information.

• Mike Causey, senior editor at Federal News Radio AM 1050, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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