Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Switching family health coverage

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Q. I am a retired USPS employee. Presently, I am enrolled with BCBS with self and family option. My wife wants to get Medicare Part B and cease to be enrolled with my FEHBP. Can my wife re-enroll with my plan if she decides to do so later on? Read the rest of this entry »

FERS MRA+10 and heath coverage

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Q. If my wife chose to retire now, at her minimum retirement age of 56 with 13 years of FERS service, would she be able to postpone her annuity until age 60?  She currently carries FEHB (self), as long as she has had it the last five years, can I pick her up under my FEHB (self+1 or family) once she retires and then when she becomes 60 she can reinstate her own self-plan at that point? Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB provider and premiums wrong

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Q. I retired from the U.S. post office in January. I changed my FEHB provider during the 2013 open season, but according to the retirement booklet that OPM sent me in February and my 4/1/14 first full annuity statement, it still shows me as having my old coverage. Will (or should) they automatically correct this? I called OPM about this mistake and was told that it is my responsibility to correct this error by submitting proof of switching providers? Is this correct? Read the rest of this entry »

Medicare

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Q. Does my wife have to sign up for Medicare? If so, when does she have to sign up? And, if my wife does not sign up for Medicare, will she incur any penalty?

Scenario: I am a working FERS employee and my wife still works. She is not a government employee. I have self-and-family Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. I am not yet age 65. My wife will turn 65 this year.

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Switching health insurance coverage

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Q. I recently changed my coverage in Federal Employees Health Benefits (Aetna) and found that the total coverage eliminated my retirement annuity, except for $19. Is there a way to change that back to my original health insurance coverage?

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Medicare

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Q. Does my wife have to sign up for Medicare? If so, when does she have to sign up? And, if my wife does not sign up for Medicare, will she incur any penalty?

Scenario: I am a working FERS employee, my wife still works and she is not a government employee. I have self-and-family Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. I am not yet age 65. My wife will turn 65 this year.

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Suspending FEHB

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Q. I will become Medicare qualified as of April 1. Is it possible for me to suspend my coverage? If so, are there any penalty/requirements? Is there a waiting period to get back in to the plan?

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Medicare Part B

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Q. I’m a retired federal employee (CSRS). My wife and I both have federal health insurance. My wife is still working (self-employed) and will be turning 65 this year. She went to sign up for Medicare and was told she had to also sign up for Medicare Part B or be penalized even though we have health insurance through Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Social Security Administration said if I was still actively federally employed, she would not be required to take Part B and there would be no penalty. Another person she spoke with from SSA said she is not required to take Part B and there would be no penalty since we have health insurance.

What is correct?

Also, when I turn 65 will I be required to sign up for Part B?

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Changing from self and family to self only

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Q. My wife and I were both career federal employees. She left federal service a few years ago with FERS MRA+10. She postponed retirement until now to avoid the penalty.

Just before leaving service, I changed my Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage from self only to self and family to cover her. She then terminated her coverage (had been covered more than five years continuously prior to that).

When she starts retirement, she can enroll in FEHB self-only coverage. Can I also change my coverage to self-only at that time? Is her eligibility to continue FEHB coverage a qualifying life event for me to change from self and family to self only?

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Dropping wife from health insurance

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Q. I am a retired letter carrier. My wife has been on my Federal Employees Health Benefits since my retirement four years ago. She is enrolled in a graduate program and receives health insurance through her university. Can I drop her from my health insurance while she is covered by the university and then add her again when she graduates?

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When to elect vision and dental

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Q. I am a federal employee with federal health insurance but no vision or dental insurance. I’m covered under my husband’s nonfederal vision and dental. He plans to retire in 2014. At that time, I plan to add him to my health insurance, which I have had for over five years. Can I wait to elect the federal vision and dental insurance at that time, or must I elect them during the current open season to avoid loss of coverage if my husband retires before the next open season?

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FEHB premiums

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Q. I was a federal law enforcement officer who retired this year under CSRS. My wife is a federal employee who will work six or seven more years. We have Blue Cross/Blue Shield-Fed as our health plan. The premiums have always been paid out of my salary. Would it be most beneficial for us to have the health coverage premiums made from my annuity or from my spouse’s salary. Would there be any negatives to having those premiums made from my spouse’s salary?

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FEHB options for part-time employees

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Q. I am 50 years old and have worked for the Department of the Navy for 25 years under FERS. The last five years of my career has been part time (20 hours per week). My wife has also worked for the Navy for 12 years (full time under FERS) and provides our Federal Employee Health Benefits family plan coverage. I have been covered by an FEHB plan consecutively for over 25 years. If I were offered early retirement, could I pick up the FEHB family plan coverage and carry it into retirement with me? If not, why not?

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FEHB premium conversion

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Q. I am a federal employee under CSRS enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program with self-and-family coverage for myself, my wife and my daughter (under age 26). We have been covered under the FEHB program for more than five years. My wife is also a federal employee under FERS. We also have FEDVIP vision plan coverage.

I may retire next year, which will be three years or so before my wife retires. In view of the fact that as a retiree, my FEHB premiums would no longer be deducted pretax, I am considering canceling my enrollment and having my wife enroll through her federal employment, during the current open season. Then the premiums would continue to be pretax until she retires.

However, I have some concerns about making this change.

1. Would this affect either her or me in terms of the requirement to be in the FEHB program for five years before retirement to continue coverage into retirement?

2. What documentation is required to prove participation as a covered family member?

3. Would I continue to be covered if the FEHB enrollment is through her federal employment (and later retirement) in the event that she passes away before me?

4. Would this change affect our daughter’s coverage under the plan in any way?

5. Would my wife have to provide a survivor annuity benefit for me to continue FEHB coverage if she passed first?

Are there any other considerations that I should be aware of as far as you know?

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Add spouse 5 years before retirement?

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Q. I am a Postal Service employee under FERS. I am covered under a Federal Employees Health Benefits self-only plan. My wife works in the private sector and carries her own self-only coverage. I plan to retire in six years, and I know I need to be insured for five years prior. My wife cannot carry her insurance into her retirement. Do I need to carry her on my policy for five years before I retire or can I add her nearer to my retirement date?

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Effect of adding dental coverage

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Q. We have Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. My husband hopes to retire within five years, and we are thinking of adding dental coverage during this open season. He understands that any change in coverage will jeopardize our carrying health coverage into retirement. Please explain how changes in coverage affect coverage in retirement.

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FEHB primary recipient change in retirement

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Q. My husband recently retired under FERS. He has the Federal Employees Health Benefits family plan. I am still working and will be for at least another 10 years under FERS. If I pick up the FEHB in open season, will he be able to switch back to FEHB once the kids reach 26 and are off our health plan, so both of us could pick up single coverage (if it’s cost advantageous at that time)? Will the switch in primary recipient be considered a cancellation on his part so that he can’t re-enroll in the future, or will my husband be able to pick up self-only when the time comes?

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How will OPM know of previous family coverage?

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Q. My husband and I are employed with different federal agencies. He is with the Veterans Affairs Department, and I am with the Defense Department. He has covered me under a family plan for the past 10 years. We are both preparing for retirement next year. Our daughter turned 27 this year and is no longer eligible for coverage under the family plan. So it is cheaper for each of us to elect our own self insurance plans, rather than for him to continue the family plan. If I elect a self plan this open season, and then retire next year, how will the Office of Personnel Management know that I have been covered under Federal Employees Health Benefits for the required five years? I don’t want to be stuck without coverage eligibility after I retire.

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Changing from self and family to self only

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Q. I retired in 2006 from the Small Business Administration and have always had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield family plan. I carried this family plan into retirement.

My wife is also a federal employee and plans to retire in 2014. She is covered under my plan — that is, she never had an individual plan of her own.

I noticed that there is a $60-per-month difference between the family plan and two individual plans. Since my wife has been covered under my plan for more than five years, can she sign up for an individual plan during this open season and carry it into her retirement? (I would switch from a family plan to my own individual plan.)

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Adding spouse to FEHB

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Q. I will have been on Federal Employees Health Benefits insurance for more than five years when I retire. However, for now, I am covered by my wife’s plan, which she can’t carry into retirement (she’s a teacher). I’m enrolled as self only in a cheap plan that I don’t intend to carry into retirement. Prior to retirement, will I be able to change to a better plan and add my wife to that plan?

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