Q. I am a federal employee under CSRS in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. I signed up for Medicare Part B when I turned 65 so as to avoid the 10 percent annual penalty. But after paying for seven months, I dropped out of Part B because I was told I didn’t need to buy it if I had group coverage. I called Medicare and this was confirmed, though I may not have said I was retired but just that I was in FEHB. My wife is two years younger than I, so I had to retain the FEHB coverage until April 2012, when she turns 65. I recently read in the Medicare booklet that “one need not sign up for Part B if they are in a group plan sponsored by an employer.” Did I screw up and cost myself 20 percent when I sign up for Part B again, in April? I fear leaving the FEHB for Part B and supplemental coverage because who knows which premiums will increase faster. Can I switch in April to a self-only policy, with my wife going to Part B plus a supplemental? If I do so, may I never thereafter switch to “self and family” in the FEHB open seasons to follow?
A. While I don’t think you’ll be penalized when you re-enroll in Part B, you’ll have to confirm that with Medicare. As for the FEHB program, you can switch to self-only coverage during any open season, and you can also switch to self and family during any open season. However, you cannot switch in April.