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. 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.

  2. I have both part b and FEHB. Any and deducible are waived by my FEHB plan. Total cost to me and my wife for zero deducible and limited drug copays is $361. That why is made sense for me to have both

  3. I agree that it doesn’t seem to make sense to sign up for Part B. In my case it would cost $2,280.00 per year.
    What I really don’t like is that Medicare becomes my primary insurance. I have been reading more often about Medicare being in trouble. I am leaning towards staying with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
    In closing, we are lucky to have a choice in CSRS to take Medicare. Most workers are forced into Medicare.

  4. I did the analysis and it looks like Part B would cost $2K/year more to add to my current high option no deductible self plus one coverage. My catastrophic out of pocket limit is $3K/year per person. Assuming one of us incurs a catastrophic cost I figure it is unlikely to last more than a few years. Even if it did we could afford it and I don’t relish getting entangled in dual payer issues. So count me out. Now let’s hope our hand is not forced by future legislative changes.

    P.S. I don’t think Alzhiemers costs would be covered by Part B if they are not medical. I assume a large piece of the cost for this care is day care service a longterm care plan could help with.

  5. How does one get their medicare paid from their CSRS pension? I will be 65 in October 2017 and need to know if I contact Medicare first or OPM first? I do not want to be billed directly from Medicare.

  6. I read the article in Postal Worker APWU magazine and it stated we would be required to get medicare part b to keep our health insurance from the post office , I’m retired . Will their be a break in the premium from the insurance now that it’s not the primary insurance but now the secondary?

  7. I am federal retiree and became eligible for Medicare B in April. I took the Medicare and am now finding that with my current FEHB plan (APWU Consumer Driven) it does not seem to be worth it at all. I am considering moving into the high option and exploring other FEHB plans and dropping the Medicare Part B. 2 questions? Will I be subject to a penalty if I rejoin Medicare at some time in the future? Am I still covered by Part A or can I drop all Medicare?

    • You are covered by Medicare Part A because you paid for that coverage while you were employed. Dropping it would make no sense. While it might make sense to drop Part B, if you wanted to reenroll at a later date, your rates would be increased for each year you were off the Part B roll. The longer yu delayed reenrolling, the greater the cost.

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