Retirement and health insurance


Q: My wife and I work for the postal service and are covered under FERS. I carried the health insurance policy, because under federal law husband and wife cannot purchase single coverage. I’m going to reach retirement first and she’s going to retire four years after me. She will pick up the health insurance to save us money, but she’s not going to reach the five-year limit required by law. Should we have her pick up the insurance before her five years are up? My retirement is set for November 2013, and hers is set for March 2017. What happens if for some reason she was to die first? Would I be able to purchase health care even though I was off the books?

A: First let me clear up a misunderstanding on your part. Federal law doesn’t prohibit a husband and wife from purchasing single coverage. I can’t imagine where you got that idea, since there has never been such a restriction. Now to your question. The law only requires that an employee be enrolled in or covered by the FEHB program for five years before retirement. Therefore, if your wife picked up the self and family enrollment in order to save money on premiums and then died, you would still be eligible to enroll on your own.


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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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