Q. I was employed by the federal government between 1978 and 1985. Both my first wife (as my dependent) and I were insured by the government plan. I worked in private business from 1986 to 2007, divorcing in 1997. I remarried in 2001. My second wife’s benefit plan was more extensive, and her plan covered me as a dependent for the past 12 years. I am still covered by her plan as a secondary. In 2007, I returned to the federal government, but did not take the Federal Employees Health Benefit plan, as I was still covered by my wife’s plan. Last year, I learned that even though I can take the FEHB after I retire in two years, which I plan to do in 2015, when I will be 68, my wife may not be able to be covered under the government plan. I signed both her and myself up for FEHB in January. Since she will only be 63 when we retire in 2015, I will not have been in the plan for the five continuous years prior to then. Does that mean there is no way for her to have coverage as my dependent? If that is the case, is there any mechanism by which we can buy into the plan or circumstances under which she could be eligible? Does the dependent coverage I provided for my first wife for seven years count in any way?
A. Because you won’t have been covered by the FEHB program for the five consecutive years before you retire, you won’t be able to carry that coverage into retirement. As a result, your coverage and hers will end after you have exhausted your 31 days of premium-free coverage. You can stave off the inevitable for up to 18 months under the temporary continuation of coverage provision; however, you’d be required to pay the entire premium plus 2 percent for administrative costs.