Q. I retired in 2000 with 30 years of federal civil service and am covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. My wife has survivor benefits both for my annuity and my Social Security. I declined Medicare coverage when we qualified for it. Now we are in our 70s, and I want to know if we can now enroll in Medicare. If so, how is the penalty calculated? I’m under the impression that the accumulated penalty for late enrollment may not be to our benefit to enroll. As it stands now, we pay 20 percent of all our medical expenses, and they have been substantial, with the medical problems that my wife has now.
A. Assuming that both of you have earned enough credits under Social Security, you’d automatically be covered by Medicare Part A when you reach age 65 at no additional cost. If you want to be covered by Part B, for which you’d have to pay the premiums, you’d need to enroll during the open enrollment period surrounding your 65th birthdays. If you didn’t, your premiums would be 10 percent higher for each year that you could have enrolled and weren’t. The only way to know if Part B is for you is to compare the coverage in your Federal Employees Health Benefits plan with what Part B offers.