Thousands of retired government workers who changed to lower-cost health insurance plans last year are still being charged the higher premiums of the plans they quit, and they still haven't been notified if their change has been processed or even if they have health insurance coverage.

In 1986 about 90,000 retirees switched insurance plans. Last December, however, more than 200,000 retirees moved to new plans. Most switched to plans with lower premiums.

The big jump in health plan changes has left many of the area's 100,000 civil service retirees in an insurance no man's land: They changed plans but find themselves paying higher premiums without any proof that they have any health coverage. Without proof of coverage, many retirees say they've been refused medical treatment, or forced to pay in advance.

Calling the Office of Personnel Management's retiree telephone number can be frustrating because it always seems to be busy.

OPM says that all retiree applications received by the Dec. 11, 1987, deadline have been processed. Changes in health plan status (higher or lower premiums) should have been reflected in annuity checks received this month. But OPM says retirees who missed the deadline because they asked for extensions should see the changes reflected in their March check. Retirees who have been overcharged premiums will get refunds in their checks next month, according to OPM.

OPM says it will mail out 10,000 insurance confirmation letters today, with delivery expected no later than next Thursday.

However retirees facing immediate surgery who need confirmation of insurance coverage can get it this way: Send OPM a telegram (with your name, retirement claim number and the phone number of the doctor or hospital seeking confirmation of coverage.) OPM says it will make the confirming telephone call immediately. Telegrams should be sent to:

Open Season Task Force, Attn: Tom Smith, P.O. Box 809, Washington, D.C., 20044. Confusion Over Taxes

Recent tax changes have confused many federal retirees and federal workers bewildered over the tax status of lump sum pension payments and their eligibility for individual retirement accounts. Tommorrow at 1 p.m. on WNTR radio (1050 AM), Sam Serrio of the Internal Revenue Service will talk about the changes and answer tax questions from callers.


James Morrison, former director of the federal health insurance program, is now consulting for Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the largest health plan in the giant insurance program. Morrison left OPM last year to join CNA insurance companies and has since formed his own consulting firm, Morrison Associates.

The Northern Virginia Caucus of NARFE chapters is sponsoring a congressional luncheon Feb. 25 at the Rayburn House Office Building. Members of the Virginia congressional delegation will talk about pending legislation affecting federal retirees. NARFE President Steve Morrissey, legislative director Judy Park and Caucus Chairman Donald MacCloskey will conduct the session. For details call Harold Krueger at 522-5294.