Government workers can expect a pay raise of between 2 percent and 3 percent next year. Retirees will probably get around 3.7 percent. So news of big health insurance premium increases in 1988 is a real jolt to most of the federal family.

While many of the 400 plans participating in the federal health program will hold the line or actually cut premiums, the Office of Personnel Management says the premium average will go up dramatically.

Here are some comments on the situation from our Monday Morning Quarterbacks:

"What! Raise premiums 31 percent? Who approved that when thousands of subscribers are victims of poorly managed health companies?

"Claims go unpaid for eight to nine months. (If doctors and subscribers aren't getting the money, who is?)

"Health company telephone service lines are busy, and written requests for payment status are ignored.

"Rumors are that claims are lost or misplaced because overworked claims processors cannot keep up with the load.

"Incorrect determinations and payments are often sent out, causing further delay in settling accounts.

"Since when have consumers ever agreed to pay more money for poorer service? . . .

"We have GEHA insurance and have had nothing but horror stories . . . . It seems that insurance companies have a free rein here and that subscribers have few rights. There must be some way of controlling the situation." N.B.F., Reston

"Twice your column has mentioned that many of the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) available to federal workers and retirees will hold, or cut, premiums in 1988 while traditional plans will raise their prices.

"Better take a close look at those so-called price cuts. For example, earlier this year the George Washington University health plan cut its quarterly individual premium to members of Washington Independent Writers from $280 to $255. Great. However, was that really a cut? Only if you didn't use the plan.

"GWU added a number of copayments . . . . In effect it killed the popular definition of an HMO: ' . . . consortium of physicians who provide complete medical care for a single, standard monthly fee.'

"Members who are forced to pay up to the maximum copayment of $500 because of lengthy treatment or even short hospitalization find their cost of one-fee-for-all-services has jumped 36 percent over the last year . . . . " B.W., Washington

"This federal health insurance program is a joke. Here we have the largest plan in the free world, with the most people covered and the most dollars {in premiums} paid, yet we seem to have no negotiating power.

"With several hundred plans participating in the program, one would think a little competition would be in order.

"I suppose I will move into an HMO this year, but several of my colleagues who belong to MD-IPA say they have nothing but trouble when they need to get a referral from their primary physician to a specialist and that quite often the specialist they get makes them feel like they are second-class citizens (or patients). So much for the power of group health purchasing." R.E., Bethesda

"The reason for the big premium increases by Aetna and Blue Cross-Blue Shield is simple. More than half their subscribers are retirees, who are the heaviest users of health insurance. It may seem cruel, but I think retirees should pay more for health insurance." W.S., Bowie