Civil servants and retirees, from Greenbelt to Guam, are in the middle of the annual nightmare of the health insurance hunting season. The object is to find the best insurance plan, at the lowest price, to cover them in the coming year.
Washington area feds have at least 20 plans to choose from, and they must make a selection each year. Many feds think there has to be a better way. In today's Monday Morning Quarterback, a reader suggests an alternative to the annual open season mess.
In another letter, a reader takes issue with the Purcellville, Va., doctor who questioned the government's early retirement policy. The doctor said his local golf course is crowded in midweek with able-bodied, middle-aged people who have retired from the government. More than a hundred current and former feds responded to the doctor's letter. None of them agreed with his diagnosis.
Remember, this is your column every Monday. If you want to sound off on a subject, let us know. Here goes:
"It seems to me, efficiency is one of the key goals to controlling the operations of government. As a federal employe for 10 years I have seen a lot of time and money wasted on inefficient ideas and programs.
"One of the biggest wastes is the annual Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Open Season. This program, year after year, issued leaflets and brochures to each employe for them to try to interpret and understand all of the 180 plans and coverages offered by each plan so we may select the best one.
"First and most important there is not one good comprehensive plan offered to federal employes, compared to health plans for private sector workers. Some plans are just better than others. Secondly, most employes do not understand the plans nor the coverages. We are forced to select the best plan offered for our needs whether we know our needs or not.
"Our primary need is for one good, comprehensive health plan at a fair cost to both employe and employer. Considering the size of our group, all government employes, approximately 2.8 million people worldwide and 350,000 in the D.C. area, you would think that, instead of each employe wasting valuable tax dollars by reading all these brochures on government time, and going to health fairs and seminars on government time, and discussing these plans with their coworkers, on government time, the system would have plenty of room for improvement.
"One obvious way of improving this would be to go about it in a businesslike manner. The employer the government would assemble one good solid health plan and allow the insurance companies to bid on the contract. The contract would be awarded to the lowest bidder, the employes would get a better health plan, and Uncle Sam and the taxpayers would save millions of dollars a year just by doing something they haven't done in years, improving our 'company' plan." E.S., Germantown, Md.
"Concerning the doctor in Purcellville who wrote that he is so disturbed by the number of middle-aged government workers he finds during the week on the golf course . . . . He should be grateful he comes from a privileged sector of our society that he can well afford to spend so many afternoons observing retired government workers cavorting on the links.
"I'm retiring next year after 30 years in a government agency that has literally busted its butt delivering the bacon. My retirement income won't allow me to visit the 'greens' with much regularity but when I do, have the good Purcellville physician wear a white carnation in his golf cap. Incidentally, what are his office hours -- I have a pain in my neck!" M.L., Rockville.