Author: Dan Hartenstein

For the past 14 years, Dan Hartenstein has worked primarily with health professionals, helping them maximize their retirement planning strategies. By specializing in retirement plan design, tax planning, asset protection, and charitable endowments, Mr. Hartenstein has helped hundreds of individuals maximize the benefits they and their families received during their working career, and more importantly, during their retirement. As the years passed, Dan Hartenstein has found that the rampant confusion and misinformation he saw prevailing among many of his clients was made worse for government employees by a system of benefits that few understand and that was constantly changing. He saw that they routinely needed help, but were not able to get it. For many years, the complexities of their various systems kept him at a distance. Over a period of several years, Mr. Hartenstein went through a series of intensive training courses to familiarize himself with the ERS, CSRS & FERS systems. Through his relationship with the Government Employee Benefit Institute, Dan has been able to help government employees find the answers they need to understand, navigate, and maximize the benefits they receive from the their respective systems. Born & raised on Oahu, Dan Hartenstein has received the Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Club of Waikiki, sits on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Missing Child Center – Hawaii, and has helped with numerous charitable projects including an endowment of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation.

FEHB and the 5-Year Requirement by Dan Hartenstein

Federal Employee Health Benefits information from Dan Hartenstein

Dan Hartenstein

If you’re a federal employee who is covered under the FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits) program and you are considering retirement in the near future, there are some things you may need to think about if you want to take your benefits with you after you leave your employer.

When you retire, you are allowed to continue your FEHB benefits – provided that you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Immediate Annuity – First, you are entitled to retire on an immediate annuity under a retirement system for civilian employees. This includes a Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) minimum retirement age requirement. What this means is that if you have at least ten years of service and you retire at the minimum retirement age, or MRA, then your annuity will be reduced for each month in which you are under the age of 62;

 

  • 5 Years of Service – There is also a 5-years of service requirement. This means that you must have been enrolled continuously – or you have been covered as a family member – in any of the FEHB plans, for the five years of services that immediately precede the date that your retirement annuity begins, or for the full period (or periods) of service since your initial opportunity to enroll.1

When considering the five years of service requirement, “service” can refer to the time that you were in a position where you were eligible to be enrolled. In this case, you would not have had to be enrolled on a continuous basis. However, you would have had to be covered continuously by FEHB enrollment.

If you did happen to have a break in your service, the break would not be counted as an interruption in your five years of service, provided that you re-enrolled within 60 days after you returned to Federal service.

Surviving spouses may also be eligible to continue FEHB coverage following either an employee’s or a retired employee’s death. In order to be eligible for this continuation of coverage, the spouse must either be entitled to receive a survivor annuity, or they must be enrolled on a self and family plan as of the date of the employee or retiree’s passing.2

 

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Limited Federal Employees Health Benefits Opportunities by Dan Hartenstein

FEHB Opportunities to consider from Dan Hartenstein

Dan Hartenstein

If you obtain your health insurance coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), then you may have some considering to do regarding how you move forward with your coverage.

This is because back in 2013, the Bipartisan Budget Act established a new enrollment type in the FEHB called the “Self Plus One” that became available in January 2016, with the opportunity to enroll that started in November of 2015.

If you missed the chance to go with the Self Plus One at that time, and it may have been a viable option for you, then there’s good news, because throughout the month of February, members of the FEHB program have the chance to adjust their plan via a limited enrollment period.

Items to Consider for Enrollment

If you’re still are considering going with the Self Plus One, but aren’t completely sure if it’s the right move for you, there are some questions that you can ask in order to help you narrow down your options.

First, as compared to your current plan, will the Self Plus One premium be lower? If so, then this could be a good alternative to the family plan. This is because the Self Plus One will cover the employee, along with one eligible family member. If, however, the premium is the same or higher on the Self Plus One plan, then it likely makes sense to remain in your current plan.

Also, are you a just an FEHB plan member or an annuitant? It you are an annuitant, then you won’t have to make your decision about enrollment right away. Annuitants are actually allowed to decrease enrollment at any time throughout the year, so if you need more time to decide, you won’t need to do so prior to February 29.

It is important to note, though, that if you have just a self-only enrollment, then you will need to have experienced what is regarded as a “qualifying life event” in order for you to switch over to the Self Plus One plan outside of the Open Enrollment season. Common qualifying life events include a change in family status (such as marriage or divorce, or the birth of a child), as well as a change in your employment status, and / or a loss in your health insurance coverage.

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Federal Employees Benefits Premiums Increasing? by Dan Hartenstein

FEHB Advice from Dan Hartenstein

Dan Hartenstein

Dan Hartenstein is a financial advisor in Oahu, HI specializing in retirement planning and federal retirement benefits

Last fall, when the 7.4% (on average) increase in FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits) premiums was announced by the government to employees and retirees, it was the largest premium increase since 2011.

But, rather than simply being stuck with higher payments for these benefits, enrollees do have other options in terms of changing health plans so as to get out from under these higher dollar coverage obligations.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Depending on the specific plan that you are enrolled in, the actual amount of your premium increase could be more or less than the average. For example, the average rise in premium for those in a self-only plan was roughly 6.5%, while those in a family plan, on average, saw a whopping 10.7% increase.

You may or may not be paying all of these premiums out of your own paycheck, though. For instance, the government pays, on average, about 70% of the total FEHB enrollees’ premiums. But, if you work for the U.S. Postal Service, your employer may pay even more for you.

Things to Consider

Even with the employer’s help, though, the steep rise in premium, on top of other increasing costs across the board, can make this recent move with FEHB benefits enough for many employees to consider other coverage options.

This is because in addition to these rising benefit premiums, many federal employees have also had to deal with several years of either no cost-of-living adjustments, or extremely small pay increases, while at the same time, many federal retirees aren’t seeing much in the way of retirement income increases either. This can make it doubly hard to justify remaining in a plan that has increased the premium in excess of 5%.

With that in mind, it is important to weigh out all potential options, as well as the various costs, prior to moving forward with any decision. Keep in mind that all health plans are not created equal, so be sure to compare apples-to-apples when evaluating any other coverage.

More about Dan Hartenstein

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