About 50,000 federal workers and retirees are enrolled in health plans that won't be around next year. But that is good news, since they can move into any of a dozen other plans that offer lower premiums and better benefits.

The plans that are leaving the federal program are the American Federation of Government Employees, Government Employees Benefit Association, National Association of Government Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees and the Postal Supervisors plan.

Workers in any of the above must pick another plan during the open season that ends Dec. 10, or risk losing coverage entirely next year.

Retirees whose plans are dropping out are encouraged to shop for substitutes, but they don't have to do anything. They will automatically be put into the Blue Cross standard option next year if they fail to pick another plan. It and many others have lower premiums and better benefits than most of the plans leaving the government program. Next year, for example, retirees in the Blue Cross standard option will pay $36.66 a month for coverage, with the government paying $109.98 a month. Those who pick family coverage will pay $77.03 a month, with the government contributing an additional $231.09 a month to Blue Cross for them. Early Retirement

The Office of Personnel Management has given early-out authority to seven Air Force Logistics Command bases facing job cuts. None of the early-outs apply to workers here. The early-outs were authorized to encourage senior workers to leave in order to protect the jobs of younger employees with less seniority. Although employees like having the option to retire early, only about one in eight takes advantage such offers.

During OPM-approved early-outs, workers can retire on immediate pensions at age 50 with 20 years' service or any age with 25 years' service. About 125,000 civilian employees are at the following bases that have early-out authority: Newark, Wright-Patterson, Tinker, Kelly, McClellan and Warner-Robins.


The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has renewed its contracts with the Wells-Fargo Institutional Trust Company to manage its common stock and fixed income bond index fund for three more years. The board runs the thrift savings plan, the government's version of tax-deferred 401(k) plans.

Next year employees will be able to invest without restrictions. Previously most investments were limited to the Treasury securities option, which is now worth $7 billion. The stock fund has assets of $156 million, and the bond fund is worth $48 million.

Newman's Forecast

Office of Personnel Management Director Constance B. Newman is scheduled to speak at Monday's luncheon meeting of the Council of Former Federal Executives at the Rosslyn Westpark Hotel. Newman, who is a candidate to be the next secretary of labor, will talk about "the civil service today and what to expect tomorrow." For information, call council president Bun Bray at 703-532-8203.