The government next week will begin printing four million copies of a booklet that compares premiums and major benefits offered by health insurance plans that cover nearly a million U.S. workers, retirees and their families in the Washington area.

Copies of the booklet will be distributed to employes in time for the "open season" that will be held from May 3 to May 28. During that period, employes and retirees can switch to different health plans, or different options within their current health plan, with their new coverage starting in July.

In addition to the May open season, the Office of Personnel Management is also planning to have another enrollment period--from Nov. 9 to Dec. 11--when individuals can pick insurance coverage for 1983.

Health premiums jumped an average of 30 percent in January, but federal and postal workers and retirees were locked into the same health plan they had last year, even though most of those plans cut benefits about 12 percent.

Because of the benefit cutbacks and higher costs, many workers are expected to change insurance plans this May, to improve their coverage or get lower premiums for what is left of this year.

OPM has announced that it will not charge a "transfer fee" for persons who switch plans, nor will pre-existing medical conditions be excluded from coverage if someone moves to another plan. The amount of deductibles paid this year will be applied to the deductible of the new health plan for workers or retirees who switch.

OPM is considering a change in the federal health program--beginning next year--that would guarantee benefits for a two-year period. Under the proposed change, workers who signed up for a health plan for 1983 would not have to worry about benefit changes until January 1985. If OPM adopts the proposal, individuals would still have a regular annual open season to switch plans, based on rate changes, benefits would not change for two years.