The Newlywed Game — federal-style

Thinking about dating, marrying or dumping a federal worker? If so, be realistic. Be practical. Marriage (and divorce) can last a long, long time.

Do the math. Can you afford not to marry him or her? More importantly, can you afford to give him or her the old Seinfeld kissoff: It’s- not-you-it’s-me! And then leave.

There are many things to consider when planning to formalize or terminate a relationship. Among them, your health, your age and your finances. Not to mention his or her current and future wrinkles, health, habits and likely sag rate.

Are you past the wonderful but unrealistic love-conquers-all stage? If not, you should probably suspend it until close-of-business Dec. 9. Consider:

  • Have you switched from reading True Romance to Prevention Magazine? Are you seriously considering buying one of those ab- roller machines as advertised on TV? Also…
  • Are you looking for very, very low health insurance premiums and lots of health plan choices?

If so … Marry the man or woman who delivers your mail. Or the personable clerk at your local post office. No matter how much you like them at other times, during the health insurance Open Season, they become even more desirable.

By the some token, if you are married to a federal or postal worker and you want a taste of life outside the federal family, divorce him or her and watch your health premiums more than triple overnight.

Although the federal health program (the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) is a group plan with the same benefits and premiums, there is a lot of wiggle room depending on whether you are working or retired, postal or white-collar, married or divorced.

Thanks to their union contract with the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service, postal workers (but not retirees) pay a much smaller share of their premiums than their federal colleagues at Interior, the IRS, Defense, Homeland Security or other federal agencies. Example:

  • A regular federal worker (at Agriculture, EPA or the OPM) next year will pay $1,590 for the Blue Cross basic plan, or $1,100 for Kaiser standard HMO.
  • A postal worker covered by Blue Cross basic next year will pay only $1,050 for coverage. If that same clerk, letter carrier or mail handler was in the Kaiser standard HMO he or she would pay only $760 for self-only coverage.

Anxious to find out what health insurance costs in the real world? Divorce your federal spouse and watch reality set in.

Someone who divorces a federal or postal worker who is allowed (by a court order) to retain FEHBP coverage would pay $6,340 for the Blue Cross standard self-only plan; and $4,630 for the Kaiser plan.

The variety of health premiums — even within a group plan like the FEHBP — is something current and former feds and ex-spouses should consider during the current health insurance open season. Workers and retirees have until Dec. 9 to pick their 2014 health plan.

Walton Francis, editor of Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans says all of the FEHBP plans are good to excellent. But some are better than others depending on your age, family status, health, hobbies and financial status. Francis says that Blue Cross basic, the second most popular plan, is equal in most respects to Blue Cross standard (the most popular plan). Yet the basic plan’s premiums are about half those of the standard option.

Health Maintenance Organizations are growing in popularity and their premiums continue to be low and your out-of-pocket costs minimal compared to some fee-for-service plans.

Last week we listed the “best buys” for singles. Coming up we will list top plans for couples, big families, and retirees with and without medicare.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m. Walt Francis will be our guest on our Your Turn radio show.

He’s happy to take questions either on air or via email.

If you have questions for Walt, email them to me at or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


Compiled by Jack Moore

Tired of how kids these days write in text-speak gibberish? LOL, BRB, IDK, TBH and JK? Well, it turns out there’s a long history of that sort of thing. In ancient Rome, close friends would typically begin letters with the Latin acronym: SVBEEQV, which stood for si vales bene est, ego quidem valeo. Translation: “if you’re well, that’s good — all’s well with me.”

(Source: Mental Floss)


From volunteer to fed: OPM offers tips for recruiting national-service participants
The Office of Personnel Management is helping agencies come up with ways to recruit new federal hires from the pipeline of national-service programs, such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

Senate proposal lops off FERS pensions for new hires
The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) has been likened to a stool with three legs. Federal retirees in their golden years draw on Social Security, a monthly annuity and earnings from their 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plans. But a new bill introduced by a trio of Republican senators would lop off one of those legs, ending the defined benefit portion of FERS coverage for new federal employees hired within six months of the bill’s passage.