Self-only vs. self and family


Q. I am currently retired (CSRS) and have single coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. My spouse is still employed by the federal government (FERS) and has single coverage under FEHB. We were both under my family plan until our youngest child became ineligible. We then went to self-only plans because the premiums were less together than the family plan. She will be eligible for retirement in three years. She is also considering simply quitting before then and taking a deferred retirement when she is eligible.

I am not covering her for spousal annuity, nor will she be covering me. We plan to put her on a family plan with me when she retires. If she retires (or quits) before she has established five consecutive years as self-only under FEHB, will she eligible to gain self-only under FEHB in case of my death? If not, can she continue self-only into retirement (or deferred) and then join me later under the family plan?

A. She doesn’t have to have been enrolled in a self-only option for five years to take that coverage into retirement; she only needs to have been covered by or enrolled in the FEHB program for that long. If she were to leave the government before being eligible to retire, she would receive a 30-day extension of her coverage at no cost to herself and, if she chose, enroll in her current plan or another for up to 18 months under the temporary-continuation-of-coverage provision. If she did so, she’d be required to pay 100 percent of the premiums plus 2 percent for administrative costs. Alternatively, and a much more sensible choice, during a health benefits open season before she resigns from the government, you could switch to a self-and-family option of your plan. During the next open season after she began receiving her deferred annuity, the two of you could switch back to self-only options.


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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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