The typical federal family in the Washington/Baltimore area can save as much as $1,200 next year by picking a health insurance plan that offers it the best coverage at the lowest premium.

Before Dec. 7, government personnel must select the health plan they want to cover them for the 1985 year. Employes and retirees who do not make changes during the open season will remain in the same plan they have now.

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program is the nation's largest "company" group plan. It covers more than 10 million current and former government workers from ex-presidents to astronauts and CIA agents. It helps pay the medical and dental bills for one out of every two people in the Washington area.

There is no one single "best" plan. The ideal coverage for you depends on your age, health, family status and income. Washington area workers and retirees are eligible to join more than 20 of the more than 140 plans in the program.

Each year at this time the editors the Washington Consumers' Checkbook put out a special, detailed analysis of all the health plans. They rate plans by their likely total cost (premiums, special membership fees if any and out-of-pocket costs to employes) to provide the best shopping guide for insurance hunters. It will be available next week on newsstands for $4.95. Checkbook's telephone number is 347-9612.

From time to time during the open season this column will list "best buys" based on the cost and coverage and also for special groups such as retirees, and for persons seeking plans with dental coverage.

Today's ratings, courtesy of Checkbook, list the best picks for a federal family of three. The dollar figures next to the plan indicate not only premiums that employes will pay but also likely out-of-pocket costs to the family based on "average" medical problems during 1985. The list:

The top-rated plan is the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Standard, with a total cost to employes of $1,430 for the year.

MD IPA Plan, $1,470; Government Employees Hospital Association (GEHA), $1,510; Health Plus High Option, $1,530, and Standard Option, $1,570; Columbia, $1,590; Group Health Low Option, $1,610; Aetna Standard Plan, $1,620.

Mail Handlers High Option, $1,650, and Low Option, $1,680; Kaiser-Georgetown, $1,690; Postal Supervisors, $1,750; CHOICE Health Plan, $1,760; National Association of Letter Carriers Plan, $1,780; Group Health High Option, $1,810.

Special Agents Mutual Benefit Association, $1,820; Foreign Service Plan, $1,850; National Treasury Employees Union Standard Plan, and National Association of Government Employees Standard Plan, $1,890; Government Employees Benefit Association Low Option, $1,970; American Federation of Government Employees Standard Option, $2,000; George Washington University Plan, $2,020.

Postmasters Low Option, $2,030; National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees Standard Plan, $2,040, and High Option, $2,090; AFGE Preference High Option (D.C. and Baltimore only), $2,100; Aetna High Option, $2,140; American Postal Workers Union, $2,190; AFGE High Option, $2,230.

National Federation of Federal Employees, $2,230; National Treasury Employees Union, $2,270; GEBA High Option, $2,280; NAGE High Option, $2,300; Blue Cross-Blue Shield High Option, $2,710; Postmasters High Option, $2,740.

Bear in mind that the dollar figures include the premium that would be paid, any fees associated with joining a plan and the uncovered expenses for an average a typical family of three.

In later columns we will have ratings for retirees, for persons who anticipate heavy medical bills next year and for families looking for dental coverage.

The Monday Morning Quarterback column will be resumed next week.