With only two days left to pick their 1983 health insurance plan, many federal workers say their agency's personnel/health benefits offices have run out of the form they need to switch health plans. The open-season enrollment period ends officially at close of business Thursday.
Since Nov. 22, when the open season started, millions of government workers and retirees have been trying to figure out which health plan offers them the best coverage at the lowest cost. If you have been confused, you are not alone.!
Running the which-plan-is-best gauntlet has not been easy. There are more than 130 plans in the program (most people here are eligible for at least 20 of the plans), and many of them have reduced or changed benefits effective next month. And their 1983 price tags to you range from less than $400 a year to more than $1,600.
The federal health program covers about half the people in metro Washington and -- with heavy local news media coverage of the open season-demand for material, brochures and price-comparision charts has been particularly heavy here, even though only about 13 of every 100 government workers is in the metro Washington area.
The Office of Personnel Management, which runs the health program, says categorically that it has not run out of the insurance change forms (SF 2809). OPM officials say that any agency or official who tells you otherwise is fibbing -- and knows it!
OPM says there have been isolated problems, in Navy, in the U.S. Postal Service and in some geographic areas, with a shortage of forms in some offices.
But it says it has been getting backup forms to agencies on an emergency basis, and that agency insurance offices and personnel offices know how to get them fast.
Unfortunately, the forms cannot be photocopied by agencies because there are several pages and the forms have individual code numbers. But spares are available at the OPM.
The law says that every federal worker and retiree must be given the opportunity to switch health plans during this open season. If agencies don't get the form to you, they are breaking the law and OPM will be most anxious to find out who is telling people -- incorrectly -- there are no forms left.