FEHB and Medicare Part B


Q. I am a retired federal employee with Kaiser Permanente standard health coverage. My co-pays are low, as are my prescription drugs. Kaiser offers a Medicare Plus plan I can enroll in, but I have to have Medicare Part B to qualify. My Federal Employees Health Benefits premiums would not increase and they advertise lower deductibles, I assume, because they would be able to bill Medicare for some of the costs of care. It doesn’t seem that enrolling in Medicare Part B when I turn 65 in a few months is worth the extra premium.

At some point in the next few years, I may move to an area where Kaiser is not available. If I have to switch to another FEHB plan like Blue Cross or another HMO, will it be more financially advantageous to have Medicare Part B if their coverage for co-pays and drugs are not as good as Kaiser? I would hate to have to enroll in Medicare Part B a few years down the road and pay the extra premium penalty when I could enroll now at lower cost. What do you think?

A. You have raised a question that can only be answered by you. You’ve already laid out the variables that need to be considered when making a decision. Now you have to add some weight to those variables. For example, is it more important to have lower costs now than to protect against the possibility of higher costs in the future? Once you have a tentative answer, put some dollar figures in the scales and see if that changes the answer. Finally, remember that life is a crap shoot. When you make a decision, there’s a chance you’ll be right, and a chance you’ll be wrong.

So, when faced with a decision that has no clear-cut answer, all you can do is pick the answer with which you are most comfortable.


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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 fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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