UNITED STATES—Hello Toni: I’m turning 65 and not planning to retire until I’m 70. I am a federal employee working full-time as an agent for the IRS.

I’m receiving conflicting information that is confusing me. Friends who read your Toni Says Medicare articles are advising me to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when I retire to keep from receiving the “famous” Part B penalty. Co-workers that work with the government say that I am protected because I am a government employee and do not have to enroll in Medicare at all.

Please explain the rules regarding enrolling in Medicare when you are a Federal employee. I look forward to what you have to say. Thanks, Sheldon from Tampa, FL.

Hi Sheldon: Your friends are correct!!  You should enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when you retire.

The rules regarding when and how to enroll in Medicare for America are the same Medicare enrollment rules for federal employees. This change for Federal employees having to enroll in both Medicare Parts A and B happened a few years ago.

Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) must pay first when an active employee has a health need. Once a federal employee has retired, which is known as an annuitant, and is enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B with a FEHB retiree plan, then Medicare is primary coverage and the FEHB is secondary coverage.

Employees with FEHB coverage and who continue working for federal service past age 65 do not have to enroll in Medicare Part B when they turn 65. As long as they continue to work in federal service, their FEHB program coverage will be their primary coverage for medical services. These individuals will have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when they retire (or when their spouse retires if the spouse provides the FEHB coverage) to enroll in Part B without paying a penalty.

Let’s discuss Medicare’s three enrollment periods for federal employees who have FEHB benefits:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): If a federal employee retires before age 65 and keeps his/her FEHB health insurance for retirement, then the retired employee can enroll in Medicare during their “Initial Enrollment Period” (IEP). Medicare’s IEP is the seven-month window which begins three months before turning 65, the month one turns 65, and there months after one turns 65.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): When a federal employee (or spouse) who is past 65 delayed enrolling in Medicare Part B due to continued service with FEHB benefits, there is an eight-month window for signing up for Part B without receiving a Part B penalty. The retiree will need to file CMS-L564 (Request for Employment Information) completed by the human resource office and CMS-40B (Application for Part B) by taking both forms to the retiree’s local Social Security office to enroll in Medicare properly.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): January 1 to March 31 every year is the only period, when a federal (or non-federal retiree’s spouse) who retired past 65 and never enrolled in Medicare Part B can now enroll. The retiree (or spouse who is over 65) WILL receive a Medicare Part B penalty for not enrolling in Part B at the proper time.

These three enrollment periods are the same for Americans who do not have the benefits that federal employees have.

It will always be to the federal retiree’s advantage to keep the FEHB plan due to the excellent coverage it provides. And the FEHB plan is considered “creditable” Medicare Part D coverage. So retirees who want to enroll in Part D at a later date can do so, without receiving a Part D penalty.

Call the Toni Says® Medicare hotline at 832-519-8664 or email info@tonisays.com with Medicare help. Toni’s Medicare Survival Guide Advanced edition is available at www.tonisays.com. Toni’s Medicare Moments articles have just been released at www.familytalktoday.com/medicare-moments.