Q. I am an annuitant (retired Jan. 2, 2011). I will be turning 65 in November. I read that if you are an annuitant, then Medicare becomes your primary. I’m also in the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. How can Medicare Part A be the primary (since it is only for hospital coverage)? Does an annuitant have to apply for Medicare Part A, or is it automatic?

A. Medicare Part A will be primary for the benefits covered by Part A. If you enroll in Medicare Part B, it will be primary for the benefits it covers. If you don’t enroll in Part B, your FEHB plan will be primary. However, your charges for services will be handled differently than they were before you became eligible for Part B. For more information, go to your FEHB plan brochure and read the section entitled “When you are age 65 or over and do not have Medicare.”

According to the Social Security Administration, your enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B will be automatic. However, you will have the option of declining Part B if you want to. Because I am always suspicious of anything that carries the word “automatic” with it, I suggest that you call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 two months before you turn 65 just to be sure.


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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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