Should I Get Part B?


The following information can help you decide.

Employer or union coverage—If you or your spouse (or family member if you’re disabled) is still working and you have health coverage through that employer or union, contact your employer or union benefits administrator to find out how your coverage works with Medicare. This includes federal or state employment, but not military service (unless on active duty).

It may be to your advantage to delay Part B enrollment. You can sign up for Part B without paying a penalty any time you have health coverage based on current employment. COBRA and retiree health coverage don’t count as current employer coverage. See page 24 to find out how your other insurance will work with Medicare.

Once the employment or coverage ends (whichever happens first), 3 things happen:
1. You have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty. This period will run whether or not you choose COBRA. If you choose COBRA, don’t wait until your COBRA ends to enroll in Part B. If you don’t enroll in Part B during the 8 months after the employment ends, you may have to pay a penalty after you enroll for as long as you have Part B. You won’t be able to enroll until the next General Enrollment Period, and you’ll have to wait until July 1 of that year before your coverage begins. This may cause a gap in your health care coverage.

2. You may be able to get COBRA coverage, which continues your health insurance through the employer’s plan (in most cases for only 18 months) and probably at a higher cost to you. If you already have COBRA coverage when you enroll in Medicare, your COBRA will probably end. If you become eligible for COBRA coverage after you’re already enrolled in Medicare, you must be allowed to take the COBRA coverage. It will always be secondary to Medicare, unless you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

3. When you sign up for Part B, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period begins. See below.
TRICARE—If you have Part A and TRICARE (insurance for active-duty military, military retirees, and their families), you must have Part B to keep your TRICARE coverage. However, if you’re an active-duty service member, or the spouse or dependent child of an active-duty service member: You don’t have to enroll in Part B to keep your TRICARE coverage while the service member is on active duty. Before the active-duty service member retires, you must enroll in Part B to keep TRICARE without a break in coverage.
You can get Part B during a Special Enrollment Period if you have

Medicare because you’re 65 or older, or you’re disabled. You should enroll in Part A and Part B when you’re first eligible based on ESRD.