Should You Elect Medicare Part B?

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By on October 29, 2017 in Retirement with 0 Comments

Yellow caution sign that reads 'open enrollment ahead'

With FEHB Open Season around the corner, federal retirees who are 65, or approaching 65, will be thinking not only of which FEHB plan to choose, but also whether or not they should elect Medicare Part B.

While there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question, there are certain things that should be considered in making the choice.

Questions to Ask

First, we need to understand that we are keeping our FEHB.  The question we face at age 65 is not Should I keep my FEHB after I enroll in Medicare Part B? rather it is Should I enroll in Medicare Part B to go along with my FEHB?

The first thing to look at is whether or not you can afford the extra premium?  In 2017, the base premium for Medicare Part B is $134 per person per month; that’s an extra $1,608 per year out of our budget. At the time this article was written, Medicare had not announced the 2018 premiums, though many expect the basic premium to remain the same for 2018.

Then we need to look at how our FEHB plan coordinates with Medicare; they don’t all work the same way when it comes to coordination.

Most of the PPOs and fee for service plans will waive their deductibles and co-pays for those who elect Medicare Part B.  Whether or not the waived deductibles and co-pays will make up for the extra premium depends on our health, so that’s something else we need to look at; “What will my health care needs be in the future?”

The next major item to consider is how we view the role of health insurance.  Is it an expense that should be minimized, or is it protection against catastrophic medical expenses?

The answers you give to these questions can help inform your decision as to whether or not to enroll in Part B.


There are a lot of other helpful sources that go into more depth than a short article on FedSmith can; plus there have been articles on the Part B choice in the past on See the articles linked at the end as an example, and you can also search for any topic using the article search form on the top right hand side of any page.

NARFE recently conducted a webinar hosted by retirement expert Tammy Flanagan on this very topic.  NARFE members can access a recording of the webinar on the NARFE website.  I’ve been a NARFE member for over 20 years and highly recommend it to those of you who are already retired, or are nearing retirement.

Speaking of NARFE, the New York State chapter has an informative website with lots of information on the Part B choice that you can peruse at your leisure.  The site is

Of course, if you are retired military and are covered by TRICARE, you will be required to enroll in Part B.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at [email protected] to discuss schedules and costs.

© 2018 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.


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.