Last week I talked about the kick-off of the 2018 Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season and encouraged you to review the plans and options available to you next year. What I didn’t talk about is the nitty-gritty. The little – and sometimes  not so little – details that may affect your health, your pocket book, or both.

There are a multitude of plans open to all employees and retirees this year – 262 according to OPM. To find out what the plans and options are and then review the premium rates, go to www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/premiums. To do a more refined plan and option search, go to www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/compare-plans.

If you are considering changing from one plan or option to another, you need to make sure that any medical conditions you have that are covered in your current plan will also be covered in the new one. The new plan will only cover what’s spelled out in their brochure. What your previous plan provided is irrelevant.

The same is true for what share in the costs you’ll be expected to pay. Therefore, you need to carefully check those out-of-pocket costs. Make sure you know what’s covered, the copays, and the deductibles.

While weighing these, remember that it’s the total cost to you that matters most. A plan that has higher premiums but minimal out-of-pocket costs may be a better choice than one with low premiums and substantial out-of-pocket ones. This is an area where Medicare-covered retirees need to be especially alert. Some plans will waive nearly all copays and deductibles while others won’t.

This may seem like a lot of work but it’s worth the time spent. While your enrollment decision will only last one year before you can make a change during the next Open Season, it could be a long and painful one if you make the wrong decision.

Note on Deferred Annuities: Under CSRS, a deferred annuity is available only on reaching age 62 with at least five years of service. In two recent columns, I incorrectly listed two additional age and service combinations. My apologies.