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Should I get Part B?

Find your situation below to help you decide if you want to sign up for Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance).

If you or your spouse (or family member if you're disabled) are still working and you have insurance through that employer or union, contact your employer or union benefits administrator to find out how your insurance 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.

Note

You can sign up for Part B without a penalty any time you have health coverage based on current employment. (COBRA and retiree health coverage don't count as current employer coverage.)

When employer/union coverage ends

Once your employment (or your employer/union coverage) ends, 3 things happen:

  1. 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.
  2. You have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty, whether or not you choose COBRA. To sign up for Part B while you're employed or during the 8 months after employment ends, complete an Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B) and a Request for Employment Information (CMS-L564). 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 for as long as you have Part B. 
    • You won't be able to enroll until January 1–March 31, and you'll have to wait until July 1 of that year before your coverage begins. This may cause a gap in health care coverage.
  3. 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)). Learn more about how Medicare works with other insurance.

If you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and TRICARE, you must have Part B to keep your TRICARE coverage.

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.
  • If you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you should enroll in Part A and Part B when you're first eligible.

If you have Veterans' benefits, enrolling in Medicare may provide you with additional service and location options. If you don’t keep Part B, you may have to wait to sign up later, and you may pay a late enrollment penalty.

If you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and CHAMPVA, you must have Part B to keep your CHAMPVA coverage.