- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I’m really confused on what to do when I’m finally 65 and Medicare is an option. I am 60 years old and still actively employed by the federal government. I have Tricare because of my retirement from the military. I have FEHBA (Federal Employee Health Benefits Act) as my primary insurance and Tricare as my secondary provider.

It is my understanding that when I turn 65, the benefits change if I’m retired from the federal government. I have been told that a large percentage of the doctors in the Washington area will not take you as a patient because they will get less revenue. Also, a large portion of the Washington-area doctors will not accept Tricare as the primary insurance.

The question I have is, when I retire, should I drop FEHBA insurance and use Medicare B as the primary and Tricare (which is free) as secondary, or should I maintain FEHBA insurance (decline Medicare B) and use Tricare as secondary, or take all three insurances (one free and paying for Medicare B and FEHBA)? What is the best formula?

Thank you,

Michael R.

Washington

Dear Mike,

My sources tell me that the choice of medical coverage is very personal and one size may not fit all. However, you do need to realize that if you decline enrollment in Medicare at age 65, you will not have Tricare as secondary insurance. You will rely completely upon the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) because you lose your Tricare eligibility if you decline Medicare.

Many federal retirees who have eligibility for Tricare do enroll in Medicare and Tricare for Life (TFL) at age 65 and suspend, not cancel, their FEHBP. That way, if they don’t like Tricare, they can opt out of it and re-enroll in FEHBP during a general enrollment period. If you ever cancel FEHBP in retirement, you cannot get it back.

Farewell and good luck to Linda Springer, who recently announced her departure as the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Ms. Springer has accepted the position of executive director in the government and public-sector advisory services practice of Ernst & Young LLP. In a farewell statement, she said: “It has been an honor to serve the president and our country these past six years. Over the next several weeks, I hope to see and thank many of the people who have done so much to make my government experience so rewarding.”

Ms. Springer has served as director of OPM since June 2005. Before that, she served the administration as controller of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and head of the Office of Federal Financial Management.

Thanks to the generosity of major donors including Lockheed Martin, Bank of America Charitable Foundation and BAE Systems, an organization known as Operation Homefront recently welcomed wounded warriors and their families to Operation Homefront Village, its new free transitional housing facility. Soldiers who are being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center Bethesda can recuperate in furnished apartments with their families.

“Lockheed Martin never forgets the sacrifices made by our service members and the debt that we owe them for our freedom,” said Robert J. Stevens, Lockheed Martin president and chief executive. “With this project, we are honored to assist our wounded warriors as they make the transition back to civilian life.”

Many such veterans have yet to complete the disability evaluation process. They may be waiting out the 18 months it often takes for benefit payments to begin; Operation Homefront Village helps keep families together and out of financial crisis. This project follows the success of Operation Homefront Village-San Antonio near Brooke Army Medical Center, which opened earlier this year.

“Bank of America believes in investing in the communities in which we live and work,” said Patrick Rainey, military segment executive for Bank of America. “We are proud to support an initiative that is giving back to the men and women who have sacrificed a great deal for our country. This facility will afford our veterans what is needed most - the support of loved ones nearby.”

Congratulations to VA Medical Center in Washington for once again being recognized as a Most Wired hospital by Hospital & Health Network’s (H&HN) magazine, a publication of the American Hospital Association.

This coveted distinction is the result of the H&HN’s Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study, which promotes the effective use of information technology in achieving clinical and operational excellence. Areas surveyed included business processes, customer service, safety and quality, work-force management and public safety and quality.

“What’s most important about being a Most Wired hospital is the way our electronic health records impact our delivery of health care. Veterans are being better served and appreciating outstanding health care improvements through the use of this phenomenal tool.” said medical center director Fernando O. Rivera.

The Most Wired and Innovator awards were presented to Department of Veterans Affairs officials at the Health Forum/AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego. Along with the distinctive recognition, winners received a plaque, a detailed benchmarking report, recognition in the cover story of the July issue of H&HN, and promotional items.

The Washington VA Medical Center was recognized previously as a Most Wired hospital in 1999, 2004 and 2006.

  • Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]
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