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: When does my wife need to apply for Medicare Part B without penalty and when should I apply or sign up without penalty. Both of us are at this point in good health.

Reg’s Response: There is a seven-month initial enrollment period for Medicare Part B. That period begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after that month. If you don’t sign up during that initial enrollment period, a general enrollment period is held January 1 through March 31 of each year. Just be aware that if you don’t sign up during the initial enrollment period, two things will happen. First, that coverage won’t be effective until the following July. Second, your monthly premiums will be 10 percent higher than the basic premium for each 12-month period you could have had that coverage but were not 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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