Health coverage in retirement for dual-fed couples


Q: There was an answer to a question that I would like clarification on. The writer, who was retired, said he and his wife were under his family health plan, but now they don’t need to cover their son, and he wants to switch to self-only coverage for both he and his wife (they are both retired federal employees). How is this possible? When you retire, you have to pick the self or family option, and your spouse also has to pick the self or family option. I assume the wife dropped her coverage in this case because you can’t be double-covered.

My question is this: Can I retire and opt out of insurance coverage, let my husband keep family coverage and cover me, and then when we no longer need family coverage (my son is 20 years old), can I pick my health benefits up again and have self-only, with my husband also having self-only?

I was under the impression that if you didn’t retire with your health insurance, then you could never pick it up again. How could they both switch to self-only then? My husband is going in as a rural carrier, I am retiring. I want him to take out the family insurance option because his percentage he pays will be way less then the percentage I will pay after I retire. I would love to retire with self-only, he could have the family option to cover my son, but I was told that’s not possible. I was told it’s best if I keep the family option when I retire, but I will be paying 75 percent as the ratio flip-flops after you retire.

A: You are correct that dual coverage isn’t permitted in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. If a husband and wife are both federal employees, they have a choice: One of them can elect self and family coverage, or they may both elect self-only coverage. When they retire, they have the same options, and they can change their decision later if they so choose. For example, one of them can elect self and family coverage and the couple can later decide to have separate enrollments, or they can elect separate enrollments at retirement and later one of them can elect self and family coverage, with the spouse canceling the self-only enrollment.
I don’t understand your comment about the premiums flip-flopping after you retire. Unless the spouse carrying the enrollment is an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, he will pay the same percentage of the premiums when retired as when employed. Premiums paid by Postal Service employees are lower as a result of collective bargaining agreements. Postal Service retirees pay the same percentage of their premiums as all other retirees.


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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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