2013 brings changes to Medicare, survivor benefits


In this column, I’ll describe changes to Medicare and survivors’ and children’s benefits for 2013.

At age 65, you’ll be eligible for Medicare Part A, which provides hospital insurance at no cost to you; you already paid for it through payroll |deductions.

You’ll also be eligible for Medicare Part B, which is medical insurance and isn’t free. If you decide to enroll in Medicare Part B, you’ll have to pay the monthly premiums:

  • $104.90, up from $99.90 in 2012, if your last year’s individual taxable income was $85,000 or less ($170,000 or less if filing jointly).
  • $146.90, up from $139.90, if your income was $85,001 to $107,000 ($170,001 to $214,000 if filing jointly).
  • $209.80, up from $199.80, if your income was $107,001 to $160,000 ($214,001 to $320,000 if filing jointly).
  • $272.70, up from $259.70, if your income was $160,001 to $214,000 ($320,001 to $428,000 if filing jointly).
  • $335.70, up from $319.70, if your income was greater than $214,000 ($428,000 if filing jointly).

As a rule, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you are first eligible to do so, your Part B premiums will go up 10 percent for each full 12-month period that you could have been enrolled in Part B. That’s a permanent increase, not a one-time penalty.

However, there is an exception: If you are covered under a group health plan based either on your own current employment or that of your spouse, you can enroll in Part B at any time after reaching age 65 or during the eight-month period that begins the first full month after you are no longer covered under that plan.

Death benefits
Under the Civil Service Retirement System, there is no specific death benefit; however, if you die while still employed, your widow or widower will be entitled to a survivor annuity.

On the other hand, if you had been employed under the Federal Employees Retirement System for at least 18 months, your surviving spouse would receive:

  • A lump-sum payment of $31,316.46, up from $30,792.98 in 2012.
  • A lump-sum payment equal to the greater of half your annual basic pay or half of your average salary during the three consecutive years of your highest pay (your high-three).
  • Any Social Security benefit to which he or she may be entitled.

If you had 10 or more years of service when you died, your surviving spouse would also receive a survivor annuity equal to half of what your basic annuity would have been based on your years of service, but without any age-based reduction if you were under age 62 when you died.

There is also a special death benefit for public safety officers. In 2013, it is $323,584, up from $323,035 in 2012. This benefit is payable to the survivors of officers who died from a traumatic injury involving external force and sustained in the line of duty.

Children’s benefits
The children’s survivor annuity rate where one parent is still alive is $492 per child, up from $487 in 2012, or $1,485 divided by the number of children, up from $1,460. If there is no surviving parent, the rates are $594 and $1,782, up from $584 and $1,752.

To be eligible for these benefits, your child must be unmarried; under age 18 (or age 22 if attending school full-time); or any age if disabled under age 18, incapable of self support. The term “children” includes both a legitimate child and an adopted child. It also includes a stepchild, if living in a normal parent-child relationship, and a child born out of wedlock, if living in a normal parent-child relationship, or if a judicial determination of child support has been made.

The dollar amount payable to the children of FERS and CSRS Offset employees is reduced by the amount of any Social Security benefit payable to the children. That reduction doesn’t apply to the children of CSRS employees.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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