Q. I am 60 and a CSRS retiree. This past year, I married and did not elect a survivor annuity for my wife, but I added her to my federal Blue Cross health care plan. My wife is 64 and receives a monthly Social Security check. My understanding is that if I pass before her, she will no longer be eligible for my federal health insurance and her Medicare premiums would be higher, as she would be penalized for every year she could have been enrolled and wasn’t. She turns 65 shortly, so we are assuming it would be best for her to apply for Medicare Part A and B. Should she purchase a Part C plan and be discontinued from my federal health care insurance? We were told that by doing this, we would save money because 99.9 percent of all medical and prescription costs would be paid by the combinations of these Medicare plans. Is this accurate?

A. Yes, your wife would lose her coverage under your Federal Employees Health Benefits plan if you were to die. While she will automatically be covered by Medicare Part A, for which she paid during her working lifetime, she would be penalized if she didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B when she became eligible. That penalty would be 10 percent higher for each 12-month period that she could have been enrolled and wasn’t. Whether she also needs Medicare Part C is something the two of you will have to decide based on a review of the relative costs and benefits.


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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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