Penalty for Medicare Part B late enrollment

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Q. My husband is 65 and planning to retire from the federal government the first of the year. He just signed up for Medicare A. We were planning to keep the Federal Employees Health Benefits Blue Cross coverage at $300 per month for both of us. We would rather not pick up Part B because of the cost. We have been advised by several agents not to pick up Part B. We were told we would “lose our open enrollment” status if we picked up Part B now. What does that mean?

If down the line in a couple of years or so, we decide to pick up a Medigap plan instead of the Blue Cross plan, will we have to pay the Part B penalties for late enrollment even though we have had Blue Cross coverage all along?

A. As long as your husband is employed and you are covered under his FEHB plan, the two of you can decline to be covered by Medicare Part B. However, once he retires, the countdown begins on Part B enrollment. It has to be done within three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after that month. If it isn’t done in that window, you have to wait for a general enrollment period. The premiums will be 10 percent higher for each full 12-month period that you aren’t enrolled.

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