“My wife and I are both federal employees. I have continued working past 65 and plan to retire in the next couple of years, whereas my wife is younger and will not retire until several years after me. I did not enroll in Medicare Part B at age 65 with the general understanding that I would be eligible to get a second opportunity to enroll in Part B without penalty during a Special Enrollment Period within 8 months of my retirement. In the meantime, because it was less expensive, I moved my FEHB coverage from my own individual plan to coverage under my wife’s FEHB family plan. I am now uncertain as to when I can enroll in Part B without penalty. I have read that if you are covered under a spouses FEHB plan, you would be eligible for Part B within 8 months of your spouse’s retirement. When I retire, am I still be eligible to enroll in Part B without penalty within 8 months of my retirement, and keep secondary coverage through her FEHB family plan? Or do I need to change back to my own individual plan prior to retirement to be able to get Part B without penalty upon my retirement? Or have I lost the ability to get Part B without penalty until her retirement?
Relax. All is well. A special enrollment period is provided if you are covered under a group health plan when you are first eligible to get Medicare. The employment must be based on your current or active employment or the current or active employment of your spouse, which is true in your case. Under the special enrollment period rules, you may enroll in Medicare during any month that you are covered under the group health plan or you may enroll during the eight-month period that begins the first full month that you are no longer covered under the group health plan based on current employment.
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Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service, 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.