Open season: Health care premiums on the rise
Denise Nelson, a human resources technician with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center and a retired sergeant first class, says she currently subscribes to the Mail Handlers health insurance plan but is planning to drop that enrollment and only use TRICARE, her retirement health plan.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As the 2010 benefits' enrollment season starts Nov. 9, federal civilian employees -- like most workers -- will face another year of health plan premium hikes.

Most notably, the Mail Handlers Benefit Plan for standard family coverage has increased its monthly premium rate and employees will have to pay about $55 more per bi-weekly pay period, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, another provider and the largest holder of federal employee policies, has also increased its rates for 2010. Employees will have to pay about $21 more bi-weekly for its standard family plan, the OPM report showed.

Washington, D.C.-based OPM spokesman Mike Orenstein said federal employees can choose from about 280 health plan options. Most of those plans' rates are increasing for 2010 as they did in 2009.

"The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program is not immune to the increases that have been seen throughout the medical community," Orenstein said.

Denise Nelson, a human resources technician with Fort Jackson's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, said she and her family currently subscribe to a Mail Handlers plan. However, she is planning to drop the plan for next year and invest more into her savings.

Nelson, who is also a retired Army sergeant first class, said she and her family will only use TRICARE, a health benefits plan for military families.

"The only reason I signed up for (the other plan) was to have supplemental insurance, and my son was about to have back surgery," Nelson said.

Nelson said when she later learned that TRICARE would fully cover her son's medical bills, she made the decision to drop her Mail Handlers plan for next year. But, she said others should fully consider their and their family's needs before deciding to drop a plan and forgo insurance.

"I recommend don't be intimidated by the price (increases); the main thing they need to look at is their family situation and health situation," Nelson said.

She said medical bills tend to be even higher for people who do not have any insurance.

"You're going to pay one way or another," so get some insurance, Nelson said.

A benefits fair for federal civilian employees is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 16, at the Main Post Chapel Activity Room on Fort Jackson.

Connie Scott-Blue, a human resources specialist at the post's CPAC office, said employees should visit the OPM Web site -- www.opm.gov -- as soon as possible to review plans and costs. She also advises attending the fair.

Deductions for next year's health premiums begin the first pay period of 2010, Scott-Blue said.

Page last updated Thu November 5th, 2009 at 08:29