Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Primary vs. secondary insurance

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Q. I have been covered by my wife’s GEHA plan for the past 10 years, and I continue to be covered under her policy (as do our two kids; we are in a self and family plan). Two new variables are coming into play for my health care: 1) I will be eligible for Medicare coverage in two months; and  2) I just started receiving a federal annuity. (Note: I am eligible to receive Social Security but have not yet signed up).

I have two related questions:

1) If I continue to remain under my wife’s Federal Employees Health Benefits policy (assuming that I can), what happens if I sign up for Medicare? Which is the primary insurance, and is it more beneficial to have FEHB or Medicare as the primary insurance?

2) If I were to register for Medicare coverage (and if I am still under FEHB coverage via my wife), does it make sense to register for both Part A and Part B, or just Part A of Medicare? Insurance?

A. Because you are retired, Medicare would be primary and your FEHB coverage secondary. It doesn’t make any sense not to sign up for Medicare Part A because you’ve already paid for that benefit through payroll deductions. Whether you need to sign up for Part B is decision you’ll have to make. To get a better understanding of the relationship between the FEHB and Medicare, go to

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  1. dp Says:
    February 1st, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    My husband is retired and covered under Medicare A. I am still working. We are both covered by my FEHB Blue Cross family plan. As long as I am still working and the FEHB is in my name, Blue Cross is still primary for my husband even though he is retired. Once I retire, then Medicare will be primary for him.

    The original poster does not state whether his spouse is currently working or if she is retired, but if she is still working this would change the answer.

  2. JAmes Taylor Says:
    February 7th, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    The comment is I believe correct. I diod a lot of research on this point, and all anwers were that FEHB remains primary as long as the spouse is working.