Weekend update

Both Houses of Congress will be engaged in committee work and floor voting this coming week, the last full workweek before Thanksgiving week. CNET provides an update on the likelihood of Congress passing another COVID relief bill during this lame duck session. The most pressing lame duck session legislative action is addressing federal government funding which expires after December 11 absent Congressional action. Currently the last day for House voting in 2020 is December 10.

Following up on Friday’s COVID-19 stats discussion, Govexec.com provides estimates of COVID-19 cases afflicting federal employees and military members.

More than 100,000 federal personnel have now tested positive for COVID-19, nearly triple the total in mid-July. Almost 3% of government workers across the military and civilian agencies have now contracted the virus. About 50,000 civilian workers have tested positive, in addition to more than 62,000 members of the Armed Forces.

Earlier today the Centers for Disease Control reported that just under 10.85 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 this year. The current U.S. population is roughly 331 million people. Consequently, the federal employee COVID-19 contraction rate aligns with the total U.S. rate (3.27%). That’s good news in the FEHBlog’s opinion, considering the fact that a sizable percentage of federal employees and military members have contact with the public as part of their responsibilities.

As we enter the second week of the Federal Benefits Open Season, the FEHBlog deems it appropriate to call attention to this helpful Wall Street Journal article titled “It’s Open-Enrollment Season. Is an HSA Still Right for You?” Helpful tidbit from the article:

Roy Ramthun, a consultant who specializes in high-deductible plans and HSAs, recommends conducting a “worst-case-scenario” analysis. This shows which plan would be most cost-effective in the event an employee spends so much he or she hits the plan’s out-of-pocket spending limit. (After that, the plan becomes responsible for 100% of expenses for the rest of the year.)

Assume Ms. [Employee’s]’s family continues to stick largely with doctors and hospitals that take their insurance on an “in-network” basis. The high-deductible plan could make them responsible for $8,000 in out-of-pocket spending—a number that includes the plan’s $4,000 deductible. Some of the blow would be offset by the $5,500 Ms. [Employee] stands to save in premiums and employer contributions.

In contrast, the annual out-of-pocket maximum with the conventional plan is even higher, at $9,000, providing less protection against high medical bills. As a result, the high-deductible plan is the mathematical winner in this scenario, as well. (Mr. Ramthun recommends repeating this exercise using the two plans’ out-of-network spending limits.)

These numbers by the way are not derived from FEHB plans.