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Medicare open enrollment: Did I mess up by not taking Part B when I retired from my federal government job?

Consumer Reports News: October 29, 2012 09:38 AM

Q. I retired from a federal government agency and did not enroll in Medicare Part B when I became eligible. Instead I continued my coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. I understand that if I ever want to enroll in Part B in the future there will be a 10 percent penalty for every year that I delayed. Did I make a mistake?

Last week brought a spate of queries from federal retirees who are in the enviable situation of having multiple health coverage options. But with options comes complexity.

While most of us who retire from private-sector jobs have no choice but to sign up for Medicare Part B when that day comes, federal employees can choose to continue with their regular FEHBP coverage for the rest of their lives instead. But that does come at a price: If you change your mind later, you face a permanent 10 percent premium penalty for every year you could have signed up, but didn't.

There's no single correct answer here; every federal retiree has to make a decision that's right for his or her family, financial, and medical situation.

To help you focus, read through this blog that I wrote last year about the various options that federal retirees should consider.

For more information, see our Health Insurance Buying Guide as well as rankings of health insurance plans.
Got a question for me? Ask it here.

Nancy Metcalf


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