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I will be retiring soon from my job in the federal government. I will continue to receive good health coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). So do I need Medicare Part B?

En español | When you stop working, you don’t have to enroll in Medicare Part B if you don’t want to, and your FEHB plan can’t require you to. Your benefits under the plan you choose are the same whether you sign up for Part B or not. If you want to have both types of coverage (in which case, Medicare would become your primary insurance), or if you want to drop the FEHB plan and rely wholly on Medicare, those are choices you’re free to make.  

Still, the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the FEHB program, suggests some points to consider:

  • Medicare may pay for some services that your FEHB plan doesn’t cover, such as home health care, some medical equipment and supplies, and orthopedic or prosthetic devices.
  • Your FEHB plan may pay for some services that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as annual physicals, routine dental and vision care, and emergency coverage outside of the United States.
  • If you have both an FEHB plan and Medicare, your benefits are coordinated so that you don’t have to file claims yourself. Depending on your plan, having both types of coverage may combine to pay almost all of your medical expenses. Some FEHB plans waive their own deductibles and copays for services that are also covered by Part B. 
  • If you don’t sign up for Part B when you retire, but need to do so at some future date — for example, if you lose FEHBP coverage or it becomes too expensive to maintain — you would be liable for Part B late penalties.

Note that prescription drug coverage provided by FEHBP plans is creditable, so you don’t need Part D drug coverage unless Part D’s Extra Help program for low-income people would be helpful to you.  

For more information, see the Office of Personnel Management’s guidance in its publication “The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and Medicare” (PDF).

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