Coverage after death


Q: I am currently 65 and a federal employee with four years and one month continuous full-time service with health insurance. My husband, age 62, is receiving a CSRS annuity, has federal health insurance, and retired after 34 years of civil service. We married 9/25/10, and were told I could be on his health insurance. He sent the required marriage certificate and letter of request. (We both had checked on the process for health insurance that this was acceptable). However, his health carrier stated that if he died before I did, I would be removed from the health insurance because he did not elect to have survivor benefits from his annuity. We have made other plans to provide for me after his death. I called my health insurance carrier and they had never heard of anyone being dropped from the health insurance because they were a widow or widower. My question is, if my husband changes carriers and puts me on as a wife during open season, would I lose coverage if he should die before me? If I would not be covered upon his death, can I elect coverage under a federal plan even though I’ve already retired? I plan on working about another year; however, I don’t know what the future will bring. Thank you for your time and attention to the questions.

A: Because your husband didn’t elect a survivor annuity, if he were to include you under the self and family option of his FEHB plan and died before you,  you wouldn’t be eligible to continue your FEHB coverage. However, you are already age 65 and can retire at any time after you have five years of service. Therefore, if you keep your self only enrollment, when you retire you’ll be able to carry that coverage into retirement.

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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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