Office of Personnel Management officials charged last week that a local "prophet of doom" was making trouble for the nearly half million federal workers and retirees here by suggesting that federal health insurance premiums are going up next year.
They were talking about me.
OPM was, probably still is, ticked off by Tuesday's report. It said 1984 health premiums would go up an average of 18 to 25 percent, with major benefit cuts in some plans.
Next day, OPM announced that premiums are going up 19 percent. OPM says the change in benefits is hardly worth mentioning. They haven't mentioned them yet.
OPM says I missed the point. OPM's point is that nobody needs to pay more next year. Heck, you can pay less, OPM says.
All you have to do, OPM says, is switch to a less expensive plan during the upcoming open season.
OPM says a million feds moved to less costly plans--some offering much less coverage. Wise feds are switching to plans that require them to pay higher out-of-pocket amounts (deductibles) before their insurance starts paying, OPM says.
An OPM official said that higher deductibles "cut down on the frivolous use" of insurance. "If people are in a plan that pays all of the costs they will use it as they please," he said. If they have to pay something, he says, they tend to use it less.
The woods may be full of frivolous health insurance users. They are also full of people who use health insurance to get well and stay alive.
Many of the subscribers--70,000 here--are retirees. They tend to have more medical problems than younger people. Retirees won't be getting another cost-of-living raise until 1985. But their medical costs are sure going up.
Two of the most popular plans are Blue Cross-Blue Shield and Aetna. Blue Cross-Blue Shield's high-option family plan next year will go up $22.89, bringing the retirees' monthly payment to $140.97. Aetna's high-option family will rise $50.78 for the retirees, to $109.01 a month.
Most self-only and low-option plans will have smaller increases. Many offer fewer benefits.
Many of the retirees are afraid to move to another plan and, given the government's miserable annual attempt to educate them, it is no wonder. They know there are less-expensive plans, but will those plans accept retirees? And are they any good?
So you can avoid the 19 percent increase next year. But it may cost you in the long run.
Premiums: Last week we ran the premium changes for plans in the Washington area that are open to most workers. Today, as promised, is the list of new premiums for specialized health plans, and for health maintenance organizations:
Foreign Service Benefit Plan: The self-only plan will go up $3.44 biweekly to $12.10 and the family plan will rise $4.68 to $38.21. Monthly premiums for retirees will go to $26.23 and $82.79.
Panama Canal Plan: Self-only premiums will rise 14 cents biweekly to $17.40 and the family plan will go up $1.29 to 49.32.
Rural Carriers Plan: Self-only up $1.70 biweekly to $20.62, and family plan up $3.00 to 32.89. Retiree premiums (monthly) will be $44.69 and $71.27.
Maryland Healthplus Plan: The self-only premium will drop $4.95 biweekly to $15.72 and the family plan will drop $11.40 to $46.78. Retiree premiums will be $34.07 and $101.36.
Maryland-MD Individual Practice Plan: Its self-only premium will go down 20 cents, and biweekly premiums will be $8.39. The family plan will drop 57 cents to $33.41 biweekly. Retirees will pay $18.19 and $72.39.
Maryland Columbia Plan: The self-only premium will drop 14 cents biweekly to $9.87 and the family plan cost will go down 68 cents to $34.31. Retirees will pay $21.40 and $74.34.
Maryland Free State Plan: the self-only rate is rising $2.81, to $10.39. The family plan will go up $3.76, to $41.72 every two weeks. Retirees will pay $22.52 and $90.40 monthly.
DC Choice Healthcare Plan: this new plan will have a self-only premium of $15.36 and family plan of $43.07. Retirees will pay $33.29 and $93.32.
George Washington University Plan: Its self-only biweekly premium goes up 28 cents to $16.80, and the family plan will rise $2.09 to $51.89.
Kaiser-Georgetown Plan: It will rise $2.50 in the self-only plan to $13.48 and go up $7.27 for a biweekly premium of $40.35 for family coverage. Retirees will pay $29.22 and $87.43.
GEBA Health Plan (for NSA workers): Self-only plan will go up $2.71 biweekly to $22.09 and the family plan will cut premiums 94 cents, to $57.50.
SAMBA Health Plan (FBI): will raise its self-only premium to $10.14, an increase of 46 cents. The family plan will go up $2.28 to $33.54 per pay period.