What is the Point of Converting to Medicare?

By on February 10, 2015 in Q&A with 32 Comments

Q: I never got a good answer on this from Fed retirement/Medicare seminars before I retired in 2011. I am about to hit 3+ year deadline for Medicare signup.

My Mom had a survivor annuity by the time she really needed it for Alheimer’s and related expenses in her 90’s. She did fine with Blue Cross/Blue Shield … there were only two problems that ever turned up: a couple of medical providers ignored instructions that she was not on Medicare so their payments were delayed; and one of the assisted living places she wound up in normally used a Medicare-only visiting physical therapy company … they had to find someone else for her, with higher costs.

So, my inclination is to ask, what is the point of my converting to Medicare from my current BC/BS Standard Option (individual)?

A: There is absolutely no point to convert your FEHB to Medicare Part B. What retiring feds consider is whether or not to choose Medicare B to go along with their FEHB. Some retirees find keeping their federal insurance and not electing Medicare B to suit them just fine; others pick up B.

What do Medicare eligible retirees look at?

  1. If they elect Medicare B, they are paying more in premiums;
  2. If they elect Medicare B, most FEHB PPOs and fee for service plans cover all Medicare deductibles and co-pays, while waiving their own;
  3. If they do not elect Medicare B when first eligible, there will be a 10% per year penalty if they choose to elect it at a later date.
  4. They also look at their expected need for medical care in the future.

To help you make your decision, I suggest you read the coordination of benefits section of your FEHB plan brochure, read the publication Medicare and You (available at http://www.medicare.gov), and visit the website http://narfeny.wix.com/coach (devoted to the FEHB/Medicare choice and put together by the New York state chapter of NARFE.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.

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About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.

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