Medicare Part B


Q. Why does anybody sign up for Part B? For me, I could be wasting over $2,000 a year if I sign up for Part B, and it would be helpful to know why anybody would do that. It’s the “to B or not to B” question.

A. There is no one-size answer that fits all. Whether Part B is worth the cost depends in large part on your current and anticipated health needs, and the extent to which your FEHB plan covers now or will cover them in the future.

If you already know your health needs or can project them into the future and you know the extent to which your FEHB plan covers the cost of treatment and care, you’ll have a baseline for comparing your out-of-pocket expenses with what portion of them would be covered by Part B if you were enrolled in it.

If you don’t have experience to draw on, you’ll have to speculate, drawing in part on your family health history. For example, if cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease run in your family, you’d need to give them greater weight that if they don’t.

You may also want to base your decision about enrolling in Part B on a worst-case scenario. In other words, what’s the worst thing (or things) that could happen to you? Then check with your FEHB plan to see if those conditions are covered, to what extent they were covered and whether you’d be saved from impoverishment by the plan’s catastrophic limit.

In large measure, the decision about whether to enroll in Medicare Part B is a matter of dollars and cents, whether actual or anticipated. Will the amount of money you have to spend to get that coverage result in benefits sufficient to justify your outlay?


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

1 Comment

  1. Part B is comprehensive medical coverage, and the FEHB plans offer comprehensive coverage, too. Usually, Part B is a matter of chasing dimes with quarters. Not a good deal.

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