Deferred annuity and health benefits


Q. When I retired from the government two years ago, I postponed the receipt of my annuity to avoid the FERS age penalty. At the time, I had for more than five years had self only health insurance under FERS through the GEHA plan. I am now turning 60 with more than 20 years of federal service and am about to take a postponed annuity. My wife is privately employed and now has “insured plus one” health insurance coverage, under which I am also covered. If I elect a partial (25 percent) spousal annuity and family health coverage, can my wife also continue to maintain her own private health coverage (which includes benefits not included under the GEHA plan), either for herself or for both of us? If she cannot continue to maintain her own coverage, can I elect a partial (25 percent) spousal annuity and individual health coverage for myself now, and switch to a family plan including her in two years when she qualifies for Medicare?

A. Because you retired and postponed the receipt of your annuity, when it begins, you’ll be able to re-enroll in the FEHB program. The fact that you wife has separate coverage won’t affect that. However, because the benefits of both coverages will have to be coordinated, you’ll need to figure out which will be primary and which secondary by talking with someone at GEHA. If you elect self-only coverage, you won’t be able to change from that to self and family when your wife qualifies for Medicare. Such a change can only be made during an open season.

Note: You are required by law to provide your wife with a full survivor annuity unless she agrees in writing to a lesser amount or none at all. Since you are covered by FERS, the only lesser amount is 25 percent.


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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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