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Ask Ms. Medicare

Do I Need Medicare if I Have Retiree Health Benefits?

Q. I’ll retire at the end of the year, and fortunately my retiree benefits include medical and prescription drug insurance. Do I need to enroll in Medicare?

A. There’s no reason not to sign up for Part A hospital insurance (see reasons here). But you’ll have to think carefully about Part B (medical insurance). These are your options:

  • You can sign up for Part B within eight months of retiring and possibly pay two sets of monthly premiums—one for your retiree coverage (if it requires a premium) and one for Part B.  Or
  • You can choose not to sign up for Part B within eight months of retiring. But be aware that if at some future date you lose your retiree health coverage (or decide to drop it) and want to join Part B at that time, you would pay a late penalty on all future Part B premiums. The penalty amount would be an additional 10 percent of the cost of the premium for each year since your retirement, as explained here

Part D (prescription drug insurance) has different requirements. You do not need to sign up for Part D as long as your retiree drug coverage is at least as good as Medicare’s. The administrator of your retiree health plan can tell you whether it is or not.

Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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