Q. My wife and I are federal employees under FERS. I will be retiring with 25-plus years of service as a federal law enforcement officer this year. I have been enrolled in self and family coverage under the FEHBP during my entire career, and my wife has been covered under my benefit plan during this period. My wife has been employed with the government for a little more than a year in a non-LEO position and plans to remain in her job at least until she reaches MRA, which will give her right at 10 years of service. I do not intend to take a survivor annuity when I retire because we made other arrangements long ago with life insurance and personal IRAs.
Based on this scenario, I have a few questions about our options during the next FEHBP open season:
1. Since I will be retired when the next FEHBP open season occurs, will my long-term eligibility for FEHBP be harmed if I drop my self and family coverage plan during open season and my wife enrolls in a self and family plan to cover us both?
2. If my wife passes away before I do and after she retires, would I be able to re-enroll in the FEHBP even though I dropped my enrollment after retiring for coverage under my wife’s plan?
3. If my wife retires at the MRA and defers her annuity, would she still be eligible to be enrolled in the FEHBP between her retirement date and when she begins drawing her annuity? If not, would I be eligible to pick up self and family coverage for both of us during this time?
4. Overall, would it be better (or easier) for me to remain enrolled in the FEHBP after I retire and continue to carry my wife on my policy? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?
5. Finally, although we are confident that I do need to take a survivor annuity because of the arrangements we have made, would we be forgoing anything important by not taking it? I know the main issue for many people is the ability of the spouse to maintain health insurance in retirement, but since my wife is a federal employee, does it really matter?
A. While I could answer each of your questions in turn, I won’t. That’s because there’s nothing to be gained by you and your wife engaging in enrollment hopping. The only sensible thing for you to is to be continuously enrolled in the self and family option of your plan. That way all contingencies are covered.