It will be another couple of weeks before most of the 9.2 million people covered by Uncle Sam's in-house health insurance program (the FEHB) know what they are getting--and not getting--for the new, higher premiums many are paying for 1982 coverage.
Unless they have called their current insurance plan for a rundown of benefit changes (improvements, cutbacks and cancellations), most feds are flying in the dark as to what medical services will cost them this year.
Many FEHB plans have reduced coverage and/or raised deductibles (the amount you and family members pay out of pocket before insurance coverage kicks in) but it will be the end of the month before copies of benefit changes in the FEHB are printed and distributed to agencies and individual workers.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest of the FEHB carriers (covering about half the federal work force), has reduced to 50 the number of physician home and office visits subscribers can have for nonemergency care in its high-option plan, and put a limit of 25 visits for those with the low-option plan. The number of inpatient hospital days is unlimited in the high-option plan except for a 60- day limit for mental illness treatment.
Aetna, second largest plan in the FEHB, has raised the high-option individual deductible from $75 to $200 and the family deductible from $225 to $600.
Many 1982 health plans have made substantial government-ordered benefit cuts. For now the only way to see all benefit changes is to study the 98-page Office of Personnel Management press release (available for reading-only at agency personnel offices) that came out Dec. 31. Hopefully, health plan brochures will be in the hands of workers within the next couple of weeks.
If you are contemplating a visit to the doctor or hospital, check your plan's benefits if possible to see what is covered and what you may have to pay out of pocket.