Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Retirees, Medicare and the ‘creditable plan’

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Q. I am retired with Blue Cross/Blue Shield and will be signing up for Medicare Part A soon to avoid penalties for Part B and Part D. Does my BC/BS meet the “creditable plan” requirement to avoid penalties? I have been told “yes and no” on the phone by Medicare. If I sign up for an HMO with a lower cost, will I meet “creditable plan” standards if I drop Federal Employees Health Benefits? Can I re-sign up for BC/BS later if I don’t like the coverage?

A. The “creditable plan” feature you’re referring to only applies to those who are currently employed or are covered by a family member who is employed. It doesn’t apply to retirees, regardless of the plan they are in.

If you drop your FEHB coverage, you can’t re-enroll in it unless you return to work for the government in a position that allows you to be covered by the FEHB program.

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Medicare Part D and FEHB

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Q. I am a federal retiree on Medicare with Blue Cross Blue Shield basic. I also have a third insurer through New York’s state insurance program. The program is putting all its Medicare retirees into a Part D drug program. How will this affect my BCBS drug coverage?

A. According to OPM, if you are enrolled in Part D, your FEHB plan will coordinate benefits with Medicare.

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Supplemental insurance

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Q. I’m retired from the Postal Service, and I would like to know if the USPS offers supplement insurance through the Medicare D program? Will I need to go outside of the Postal Service for my supplement insurance? I turn 65 in January.

A. Neither the Postal Service nor any other agency of government offers supplemental insurance. You’re on your own.

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Medicare for future retiree with health problems

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Q. I plan on retiring at the end of 2014. I have been with the service 33½ years under CSRS. I have a couple of incurable medical issues, so I go to the doctor and hospital regularly. I have always paid into FEHP and have had BC/BS for more than five years. My question is regarding medical insurance. Do I have to obtain Medicare parts B, C and D? I will be continuing to pay into my FEHP when I retire but want to know if I should get any of those other plans because I do not want to get stuck with big hospital co-pays and/or prescription bills in the event that my health deteriorates. I hear people talking about this, but I don’t want to listen to hearsay because I don’t know much about it and I am a little confused.

A. While you don’t have to enroll in Medicare Parts B, C and D, whether you should is up to you. You’ll have to compare what your FEHB plan coverage will be with and without those enrollments. Once you become eligible for Medicare, the way your plan will treat your bills changes.

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Soon to retire, and CSRS wife has Medicaid

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Q. I am thinking of retiring soon, with 35 years’ service at 62 years old. My wife is 72 and bedridden and has Part A Medicare and Medicaid and is still on my FEHB. I have been told I should have her apply for Part B Medicare and drop her from my FEHB. She will have parts A and B Medicare and Medicaid, and from a letter she received recently, she is covered also under Part D prescription. Is taking her off my insurance the thing to do, or will I end up with many out-of-pocket expenses? I also believe she will be in a nursing home before this year ends, which I believe is covered by Medicaid. I am hoping to be retired by this fall, and I need guidance/answers. I would of course continue my coverage under FEHB.

A. I can’t advise you on what to do. However, if you moved from self and family FEHB coverage to self-only and then died, she would be barred from re-enrolling if it became desirable for her to do so. Further, before making a decision, check the benefits available from her other coverages against what your plan provides.

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FEHB and Medicare Parts B, D

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Q: I am a Civil Service Retirement System annuitant who will turn 65 soon. I have a Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. Must I sign up for Medicare Part B and/or Part D? What are the consequences if I don’t? Will my FEHB plan continue to cover my health care costs if I don’t sign up for Medicare? I have signed up for Part A because I paid for it over my working career.

A: No, you don’t have to sign up for Medicare Part B or Part D. Whether you should is a decision you’ll have to make. Your plan brochure has information about how benefits will be paid. Look for the following headings: “When you are age 65 or over and do not have Medicare,” and “When you have the Original Medicare Plan (Part A, B or both).” As for Part D, very few employees covered by an FEHB plan would have anything to gain by enrolling in it.

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