Good idea to delay Medicare Part B?


Q: I am on disability retirement through the U.S. Postal Service. I am 48 years old and am under the Federal Employees Retirement System. I have been retired since 2009. I am also receiving Social Security disability. I just received information from Social Security stating that I am required to receive Medicare Part B. It says I may opt out, but if I decide to join later, I may end up paying penalties.

Can I keep my health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan? If I do keep it and decide to keep Medicare Part B, is Medicare Part B the supplementary insurance or the primary? If I decide I do not want Medicare Part B, will I be penalized when I do want it? What if I don’t want it until I reach the legal age? Will I still need to pay back penalties?

A: Enrolling in Medicare Part B is voluntary; however, as you were told, if you later elect to enroll in Part B, you will have to pay the penalty for late enrollment. That penalty is 10 percent for each 12-month period you could have been enrolled but weren’t. Because you aren’t employed, Medicare is your primary payer and the FEHBP your secondary payer.


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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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