The following is a question submitted by a Federal Times readers about retirement and other issues facing the federal workforce. It is answered by Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service and a Federal Times columnist since 1995.

Question: If I retain my FEHB upon retirement, what is the advantage to signing up for Medicare Part B? Medicare Part A is essentially free. However, there is a cost to Medicare Part B. Need I sign up?

Reg’s Response: No, you don’t have to sign up for Medicare Part B. In fact, NARFE (the National Association for Active and Retired Federal Employees) has pointed out that most employees covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) won’t need it.

However, just because you don’t need those additional benefits now doesn’t mean that you won’t need them later. Among other things you should do before making up your mind is to review your own family’s health history to see if there are any health conditions that you are likely to have inherited. Then check those against the two forms of coverage to see if there’s anything in Part B that would make the additional cost worth it in the future.

Keep in mind that if you delay enrolling in Part B until you need that coverage, the premiums you pay will have increased with every year you weren’t enrolled.

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Reg Jones is the resident expert on retirement and the federal government at Federal Times. From 1979 until 1995, he served as an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handling recruiting and examining, white and blue collar pay, retirement, insurance and other issues. Opinions expressed are his own.

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