Medicare and retirement


Q. I will be retiring in February 2011 at 58 from CSRS as a GS-15 with 30 years of service. My wife is on Social Security Disability and will be 64. She currently has Medicare Part A but not Part B. We have Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield standard and also have long-term care insurance. When she went on disability, Blue Cross indicated that it would be the primary payer and Medicare secondary but that it would switch after I retired, with Medicare the primary for her. In researching the OPM Web page, it’s my understanding that she cannot be forced to take Medicare Part B though Blue Cross seemed to imply she needed to. Given that I will have to keep the higher-cost Blue Cross in place until I am 65 and all the issues surrounding Medicare, we are inclined not to start Medicare Part B. I realize that this will mean a 10 percent increase in Medicare premiums per year if she eventually goes on to Medicare but given that I plan to work for several years in private industry and Medicare looks two years back in your income to determine the premium, it would mean a substantial cost for combined premiums for Blue Cross and Medicare. What do you think about holding off on Medicare Part B until I come closer to being eligible and things settle on the future of Medicare?

A. You’ll have to make up your own mind about whether to enroll her in Medicare Part B or wait until a later date. There is no requirement that either of you enroll in Part B. The difference in your Blue Cross and Blue Shield benefits if you do is spelled out in Section 9 of your plan brochure under the heading “When Medicare Part B is primary.”


About Author

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

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