Family debate


Q. My brother in law, who was a senior arbitrator with the IRS, advises my wife that I should arrange for health plan coverage into retirement, which is about six years from now, God willing.  He is in the CSRS program and I am in the FERS.  He tells my wife, his sister, that I have to apply for payroll deductions for three years to be eligible for “survivorship” forever with no premium payments. Unfortunately, I find no such language when reviewing our plan, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, in Conn.  I do find language referring to a TCC for 18 months followed by full premium payments thereafter to our local BCBS plan, without disclosure of previous health conditions.

Do you have a definitive resolution to this quandary once and for all?

A. The law is simple. You have to have been enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for the five consecutive years before you retire to carry that coverage into retirement or from your first opportunity to enroll, which doesn’t apply in your case. The mention of “3 years,” “survivorship,” and “no premium payments” makes no sense.  Perhaps he was talking about the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program.  While the five-year or first opportunity rule also applies to it, if you were enrolled in Basic coverage, which equals your annual basic pay plus $2,000, and when you were retired you elected to allow your coverage to decline until it reached 25 percent of its face value, you would no longer have to pay any premiums after you reached age 65.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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