The following is a question submitted by a Federal Times reader to columnist Kevin Moss, a senior editor at Consumers’ Checkbook and expert on federal employee health insurance plans for civil servants, retirees and their families.

The question and response have been edited for clarity and confidentiality.

A Fed Times reader asks:

“I am retired civil service from the Department of the Army and turn 65 in October. My wife will not turn 65 for three more years.

Is it best to keep FEP Blue Standard Plus One? I would think this question would be part of BCBS FAQ but could not find it anywhere. I just don’t want to make the wrong decision.”

Kevin’s response:

If you’re happy with BCBS Standard, you can continue with that plan when you enroll in Medicare. With Original Medicare (Parts A & B), BCBS Standard waives inpatient hospital charges, as well as the calendar year deductible and coinsurance and copays for doctor visits and outpatient services.

Your spouse would be subject to the regular non-Medicare plan benefits. But do keep in mind that BCBS Standard has the one of the highest premiums of any national PPO plan. You might consider whether BCBS Basic could work for you.

There are many differences between BCBS Standard and BCBS Basic, but these three benefits might be the most significant:

  • Mail order prescription drug coverage - Available in BCBS Standard, only available in BCBS Basic when you have Medicare Part B
  • Skilled Nursing Care - Available in BCBS Standard, not available in BCBS Basic.
  • Out-of-Network provider coverage - Available in BCBS Standard, not available in BCBS Basic

If you don’t use any of those benefits, and you’re happy with in-network BCBS providers, you could switch to BCBS Basic this fall and save around $2,500 in premium for a self plus one enrollment. Like BCBS Standard, BCBS Basic waives in-patient hospital charges and coinsurance and copays for doctor visits and outpatient services when you have Original Medicare.

Also, BCBS Basic has an additional bonus of $800/year in Part B premium reimbursement not found in BCBS Standard.

Have a question about your FEHB plan or the federal insurance marketplace? Send your query to

Kevin Moss works for Consumers' Checkbook, a nonprofit dedicated to helping consumers make informed decisions. He leads the production of Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, a decision support tool that helps federal employees and annuitants find the FEHB plan that's the best fit.

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