Government workers who pay $3 billion each year in health insurance premiums will get some long-overdue help this fall when it comes time to pick 1981 health coverage for themselves and their families.
Uncle Sam plans to put out "simplified" brochures and charts that will enable the 10 million people in the program to comparison shop among the more than 100 plans offered them under the federal health benefits program. Just in time, as 37 new plans have put in bids to join what is easily the world's largest "company" health insurance program.
In the fall each year federal, postal and retired government workers must wade through some of 26 million brochures outlining benefits, and premiums, of plans in the program. Typically the average civil servant is eligible for between 13 and 20 plans.
To make the job of selecting health insurance a little easier, the Office of Personnel Management is working up a simplified, comparison-shopping guide that will help workers narrow choices.
Idea is to make comparisons -- but not draw conclusions -- of various plans for which workers and retirees are eligible and to include new, higher 1981 premiums in those guidebooks or charts.
There are more than 10 million people covered by the federal health insurance program, including 2.4 million workers, 1.1 million retirees and 6.6 million family members.
Officials hope to have the comparison charts drawn for regional distribution, to give employes an idea of the benefits and charges for plans he or she is eligible to join. In addition to government-wide plans such as Aetna and Blue Cross-Blue Shield, many workers are eligible for union-sponsored health insurance, various Health Maintenance Organizations in their area, and plans limited to specific geographic regions.
Government workers, and members of Congress, have complained for years that they get little help from agencies when it comes time to pick from the available plans. Most people stick with the two major, nationwide plans. The new data could persuade many employes, and retirees, to shop around with an eye on both premiums and plans or plans that offer coverage they think they will need.