Q. Does my wife have to sign up for Medicare? If so, when does she have to sign up? And, if my wife does not sign up for Medicare, will she incur any penalty?

Scenario: I am a working FERS employee, my wife still works and she is not a government employee. I have self-and-family Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. I am not yet age 65. My wife will turn 65 this year.

A. As long as she is working, she doesn’t need to sign up for Medicare. However, there’s no reason for her not to accept Part A coverage, which would be secondary to her FEHB coverage. When she retires, she’ll need to decide whether to enroll to enroll in Part B, for which she’d have to pay the premiums. If she doesn’t do that during the open enrollment period following her retirement and later decides that she’d like to have it, she would be assessed a 10 percent penalty for every year she could have been enrolled and wasn’t. The same rules would apply to you when you reach age 65.


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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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