Health care in retirement for dual-fed couples


Q: My spouse and I are both under the Federal Employees Retirement System and our service computation dates are within weeks of each other. We would both like to retire under the minimum retirement age plus-10 provision. My spouse wants to retire in 2011 at age 58, with 26 1/2 years of continuous service, the entire time enrolled in a Federal Employees Health Benefits individual plan. The earliest I would retire is 2012 at age 57, with 27 1/2 years of continuous service, all in an FEHB individual plan.

Here is our plan: During this open season, I should enroll my spouse and myself in an FEHB family plan. She could then retire in 2011 and elect a postponed annuity. She would have health benefits under my family plan, while her annuity entitlement increases 5 percent for each year she postpones receipt of her annuity. When she elects to receive her annuity at age 59 or 60, she can then re-enroll in an FEHB family plan.  At that time, I could retire (also with a postponed annuity) and receive health benefits under my wife’s plan. Again, when I start receiving my postponed annuity several years later, I can re-enroll in an individual FEHB plan, and she could change her family coverage to an individual plan during open season. This way, we have two individual FEHB plans and we won’t have to worry about electing FERS survivor benefits that would otherwise reduce our annuities. Is this a reasonable plan?

A: Sounds like a reasonable plan. However, because you cannot have dual coverage (i.e., self and family plus self only for one family member, or self and family for both members), you’ll have to time the switch from one covered member to the other. As a rule, this would be easiest to do during the annual open season.


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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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