What do CIA analysts, Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI agents, the Secret Service agents who guard the president, U.S. embassy personnel and rural letter carriers have in common?
Maybe not much at first glance. But maybe more than you think.
For one thing, all of them work for the U.S. government, although some, for obvious reasons, are more visible than others. Those who work long enough can retire on a federal annuity. And they can invest in the federal 401(k) plan.
Like workers everywhere, CIA, DEA, FBI agents and similar employees have private lives, and they often worry about the same things as other people.
Many of them get sick, have spouses who get sick and children who need shots, braces and the like. And like most other people among the 9 million covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, those special groups of special people depend on their health plans to help pay some or most of their medical bills and help keep them healthy.
But the above groups also have their very own health plans.
Like other civil servants, special federal workers will be going over health insurance brochures and studying premiums during the open enrollment period that begins next month and runs through early December.
During the open season, millions of people will be checking out the best deals in health insurance for next year. About half the folks in the Washington area are covered by the federal health insurance program.
Workers and retirees in the federal program, the nation's largest employer-sponsored group health insurance program, pay the same premiums and get the same benefits if they are enrolled in the same plan. Premiums are prorated on a group basis, rather than determined by the medical experience (good or bad) of individual group members.
Premiums in the federal program are going up an average of 9.3 percent next year. But some plans will hold the line. Some will go up more than 9.3 percent. Some less.
Most federal workers and retirees can pick from a dozen to 20 health plans. Those choices range from local health maintenance organizations to fee-for-service plans that provide coverage just about anywhere. But some workers, such as the ones noted above, get an extra choice because of the jobs they do or the agency they work for.
Yesterday, we listed next year's premiums for fee-for-service health plans open to all employees. Future Federal Diaries will list premiums for postal employees (who pay less) and premiums for HMOs (which generally charge less).
Here are next year's premiums for special fee-for-service plans. The premiums shown are for active-duty workers, who pay biweekly. Retirees pay the same overall premium, but on a monthly basis.
* Foreign Service Health Plan: Self only, $32.56, up $2.79 from the 1999 biweekly premium. Family, $94.91, up $7.70 .
* Panama Canal Area Plan: Self only, $24.85, up $1.84. Family, $53.90, up $3.99.
* Rural Letter Carriers Plan: Self only, $40.02, up $5.96. Family, $66.33, up $10.38.
* SAMBA (Special Agents) Plan: Self only, $45.80, up $6.08. Family, $117.55, up $14.70.
* Secret Service Plan: Self only, $24.31, up $2.21. Family, $57.62, up $5.24.
* CIA Plan: CLASSIFIED (for now), but the Federal Diary has a mole who promises to produce next year's premiums as soon as possible.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has openings for a Grade 13 labor relations specialist and for a personnel management specialist. Call (202) 326-4111.
Workers in the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Air Traffic Services have picked the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as their bargaining agent. AFSCME's Local 26 has organized other FAA units. The agency has been freed from many civil service pay practices and will implement a "core compensation" system next year.
What Good Old Days?
Remember when working for the federal government was a high calling and it won the respect of your neighbors and the general public? Well, if you do, you may be lying about your age. For a look back at the time of an allegedly happier civil service, check the Federal Diary on Sunday.
Mike Causey's e-mail address is email@example.com