Should I buy Medicare Part B?


Q: I am a retired federal employee, almost 65 years old, and I have to decide whether to sign up for Medicare Part B. Whether I sign up or not, I will continue with the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (currently Government Employees Health Association, which has a maximum annual $5,000 out-of-pocket expense). The Part B decision seems to be one of costs versus benefits. I would pay about $1,400 per year for Part B and would save/eliminate most of my out-of-pocket expenses. I rarely spend more than about $1,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses.
It’s almost impossible to predict how the future will go on costs for Medicare and the FEHPB or on required future services. But based on my analyses, it appears that it would be easier to select an FEHPB plan that has a low annual out-of-pocket expense, some of which are not significantly different than the cost of carrying GEHA. So, I am not seeing a lot of benefit for federal employees to sign up for Part B. Are there any statistics regarding how many otherwise-Medicare-eligible federal employees decide against signing up for Part B?

A: As far as I know, there aren’t any such statistics. Nor would knowing them be of any value in determining whether you should sign up for Medicare Part B coverage. Decisions like this are personal ones, based on what we know about our health, what we anticipate, and what we fear.


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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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