Medicare Part B


Q. I’m a retired federal employee (CSRS). My wife and I both have federal health insurance. My wife is still working (self-employed) and will be turning 65 this year. She went to sign up for Medicare and was told she had to also sign up for Medicare Part B or be penalized even though we have health insurance through Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Social Security Administration said if I was still actively federally employed, she would not be required to take Part B and there would be no penalty. Another person she spoke with from SSA said she is not required to take Part B and there would be no penalty since we have health insurance.

What is correct?

Also, when I turn 65 will I be required to sign up for Part B?

A. Now hear this! No one is required to enroll in Medicare Part B. It’s optional coverage for which you would have to pay the premiums. Further, if you want to sign up, there is no penalty for not doing so if you are currently employed. Still further, if either of you were employed and enrolled in the self-and-family option of an FEHB plan, the nonfederal member wouldn’t be penalized for failing to enroll during the open enrollment period after turning age 65. But beware. All bets are off when you retire. Then, the penalties will begin to accrue if you don’t enroll during your initial general enrollment period.


About Author

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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