Reg Jones Expert's View

Reg Jones

I’ve written about this issue before but I wish I had done so again recently because it might have spared some recent retirees a lot of pain. What am I talking about? Retiring when you haven’t met the requirements to continue your Federal Employee Health Benefits coverage. Today’s health care costs are so high that if you don’t have good coverage, you are in real trouble. And so would your family be.

The requirements to carry your FEHB coverage into retirement are simple. You have to be enrolled in the program for the five consecutive years before you retire. That’s true even if you have a break in service (leave government and return later). You won’t have to start all over as long as you were enrolled when you left and you reenroll when you return.

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You can also qualify to continue your coverage if your five years include coverage by Tricare or CHAMPVA, although only as long as you are enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire. You can also continue that coverage with fewer than five years if you accept an offer of early retirement. If you don’t meet one of these standards and haven’t enrolled in a timely manner, the chances of OPM granting you a waiver are very slim.

If you aren’t able to carry your FEHB coverage into retirement, you’ll have a 30-day period during which you can either sign up for an individual policy with your FEHB carrier or extend your coverage for up to 18 months under the Temporary Continuation of Coverage provision of law.

If you choose the former, your coverage will often be less and your premiums higher (usually much higher).

If you elect TCC and stay in your current plan, your coverage would be identical to what you had while employed. If you choose another plan, the costs and benefits would be different. In either case, you would have to pay the full cost of the premiums plus 2 percent to cover administrative expenses.

Read more about carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement

There are all kinds of things that you can mess up when retiring, However, I’m convinced that the worst one is being ineligible to carry your health benefits into retirement.

You can usually adapt if you overestimated your annuity benefit, for example. But being without health insurance can be injurious not only to your health but to your life, and the health and lives of those you love.

FERS Retirement Planning Guide 2020