Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FERS MRA+10 and heath coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. If my wife chose to retire now, at her minimum retirement age of 56 with 13 years of FERS service, would she be able to postpone her annuity until age 60?  She currently carries FEHB (self), as long as she has had it the last five years, can I pick her up under my FEHB (self+1 or family) once she retires and then when she becomes 60 she can reinstate her own self-plan at that point? Read the rest of this entry »

Removing a spouse from family coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. I presently have self-and-family health insurance through Blue Cross-Blue Shield. I will retain family coverage for the children but want to drop my wife from coverage. Can I legally do this? She is eligible for Medicare due to disability. I am not retired.

A. No, you can’t. There are only two enrollment categories in the FEHB program: self and self-and-family. You are enrolled in the latter, which means that all your eligible family members are included.

Remarriage and FEHB

Bookmark and Share

Q. I understand if I’m over 55 and I remarry, I will not lose my survivor benefits. What about health care? I am now enrolled in the federal Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan. Would that change if I decided to remarry?

Read the rest of this entry »

Changing from self and family to self only

Bookmark and Share

Q. My wife and I were both career federal employees. She left federal service a few years ago with FERS MRA+10. She postponed retirement until now to avoid the penalty.

Just before leaving service, I changed my Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage from self only to self and family to cover her. She then terminated her coverage (had been covered more than five years continuously prior to that).

When she starts retirement, she can enroll in FEHB self-only coverage. Can I also change my coverage to self-only at that time? Is her eligibility to continue FEHB coverage a qualifying life event for me to change from self and family to self only?

Read the rest of this entry »

Self vs. self and family

Bookmark and Share

Q. In 2007, my wife (FERS) and I (CSRS) were federal employees and both carried Standard Self Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage.

I retired in late 2007 and carried my Standard Self BC/BS coverage into retirement.

In early 2010, my wife dropped her Standard Self BC/BS coverage, and I added her to my coverage that I changed to Standard Family BC/BS.

For economic reasons, we are now thinking of both going back to Standard Self BC/BS and cannot remember why we switched to self and family in the first place. Is there a difference or advantage of one over the other in coverage?

Also, my wife will retire in late 2014, and we don’t want to make the change to self if it will prevent her from carrying her health coverage into retirement.

Can you think of any advantage of having Standard Family BC/BS coverage instead of each one of us returning to Standard Self BC/BS coverage?

Read the rest of this entry »

Primary insurance

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am covered as a retiree from the Postal Service under a Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. I am also covered on a plan under my name from my late husband’s employer, from which he retired. The rules for coordination of benefits state that if you are covered under two plans in your name, the plan that you had longer would be primary. Since I retired in July, my FEHB plan changed in that it is no longer paid with pretax dollars; it is paid monthly and the premium is not the postal rate but the rate other federal workers and retirees pay. To me, this is not the same plan I had, and I am thinking the other plan would now be primary since I have had that plan for over two years. Also, over the years, I sometimes only had insurance through my husband, sometimes had both and sometimes just had FEHB. Can I safely say that because of the changes in July that the other insurance is now primary?

Read the rest of this entry »

Self plus one

Bookmark and Share

Q. I noticed on the plan for Group Health Coop, the only premiums listed are for “self only” and “self and family.” As only my wife and myself are to be covered, is there a different premium for “self plus one”? I have seen this category on other policies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Self-and-family coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. My girlfriend and I have been living together for a number of years. She is covered by her own insurance at her work, and I am retired and covered under Federal Employees Health Benefits self only. When she retires, she will be uninsured until she is eligible for Medicare. Is there any way for me to enroll in family coverage and have her covered?

Read the rest of this entry »

Dental and vision in FEHB

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have been a federal employee for five years as a registered nurse. I am not enrolled in Federal Employees Health Benefits. I am covered under my spouse’s medical/dental health plan because it is more affordable. We both want to be covered under FEHB when I retire due to lifetime coverage. I understand I need to be continuously enrolled in FEHB for five years before retiring. Do I need to enroll in dental/vision plan, as well, or just the medical health plan. In addition, can I just choose self only?

Read the rest of this entry »

Add spouse 5 years before retirement?

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a Postal Service employee under FERS. I am covered under a Federal Employees Health Benefits self-only plan. My wife works in the private sector and carries her own self-only coverage. I plan to retire in six years, and I know I need to be insured for five years prior. My wife cannot carry her insurance into her retirement. Do I need to carry her on my policy for five years before I retire or can I add her nearer to my retirement date?

Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB primary recipient change in retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q. My husband recently retired under FERS. He has the Federal Employees Health Benefits family plan. I am still working and will be for at least another 10 years under FERS. If I pick up the FEHB in open season, will he be able to switch back to FEHB once the kids reach 26 and are off our health plan, so both of us could pick up single coverage (if it’s cost advantageous at that time)? Will the switch in primary recipient be considered a cancellation on his part so that he can’t re-enroll in the future, or will my husband be able to pick up self-only when the time comes?

Read the rest of this entry »

How will OPM know of previous family coverage?

Bookmark and Share

Q. My husband and I are employed with different federal agencies. He is with the Veterans Affairs Department, and I am with the Defense Department. He has covered me under a family plan for the past 10 years. We are both preparing for retirement next year. Our daughter turned 27 this year and is no longer eligible for coverage under the family plan. So it is cheaper for each of us to elect our own self insurance plans, rather than for him to continue the family plan. If I elect a self plan this open season, and then retire next year, how will the Office of Personnel Management know that I have been covered under Federal Employees Health Benefits for the required five years? I don’t want to be stuck without coverage eligibility after I retire.

Read the rest of this entry »

Changing from self and family to self only

Bookmark and Share

Q. I retired in 2006 from the Small Business Administration and have always had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield family plan. I carried this family plan into retirement.

My wife is also a federal employee and plans to retire in 2014. She is covered under my plan — that is, she never had an individual plan of her own.

I noticed that there is a $60-per-month difference between the family plan and two individual plans. Since my wife has been covered under my plan for more than five years, can she sign up for an individual plan during this open season and carry it into her retirement? (I would switch from a family plan to my own individual plan.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Adding spouse to FEHB

Bookmark and Share

Q. I will have been on Federal Employees Health Benefits insurance for more than five years when I retire. However, for now, I am covered by my wife’s plan, which she can’t carry into retirement (she’s a teacher). I’m enrolled as self only in a cheap plan that I don’t intend to carry into retirement. Prior to retirement, will I be able to change to a better plan and add my wife to that plan?

Read the rest of this entry »

Self-and-family coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. If a newly married couple has no children, can they enroll in self-only plans rather than the family plan if only one is a federal retiree? This seems an unfair expense for seniors to pay the high rate of a family plan when it’s only coverage for the two of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Taxes on self only vs. self and family

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m retired under FERS and my husband is still working for the federal government (also FERS). He has covered his son and me with Blue Cross/Blue Shield under the family plan. His son turned 27 years old this year, and we’re trying to decide whether to drop the family plan and seek insurance as self only. The savings per month is about $60, but I think we’ll end up paying more for taxes. Is there a way to calculate this? Do you have any suggestions?

Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB coverage for spouse

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a retired postal employee. My wife is entitled to receive health benefits through her private employer. I would like to switch my coverage from family to self only. I have survivor benefits for my wife. Should I die before she retires and loses private health insurance, is she able to pick up my Federal Employees Health Benefits?

Read the rest of this entry »

Part-timer changing from self only to self and family

Bookmark and Share

Q. I work part time and carry self-only health insurance, using my husband’s nongovernment health insurance for the family since it’s less expensive. Upon our retirement:

1. Can we drop my husband’s health insurance, switch my self-only insurance to self-and-family insurance?  Or would I have to carry family insurance for the five years, not just self-only?

2. Also, I’m carrying the least expensive health insurance. Once I retire, can I switch to a better health insurance, or am I limited in some way because I’ve been paying so little over my active federal government years?

Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB spouse coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. I plan to continue my health insurance coverage (self only) under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program upon retirement. If my spouse is not enrolled in the program and something happens to me, can she enroll in the program after my death?

Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB options for couple

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am retired under CSRS and have chosen a survivor benefit for my wife. I have self-and-family Blue Cross/Blue Shield under Federal Employees Health Benefits. My wife and I have Medicare parts A and B. The Veterans Affairs Department has classified me 100 percent disabled, so I am also entitled to free medical benefits through the VA system and my wife is covered by CHAMPVA. I feel I’m grossly overinsured.

1. Can I suspend my FEHB coverage because of my VA coverage and have the option of re-enrolling if I lose my 100 percent disability (not very likely, but anything’s possible)?

2. If I suspend my FEHB coverage will my wife have the option of re-enrolling in FEHB when I die?

3. If I keep my FEHB coverage but choose self-only, can I add her back on if she loses CHAMPVA?

4. If I keep my FEHB coverage but choose self-only, can she get coverage under FEHB when I die?

Read the rest of this entry »