Should you get Part B?

Find your situation below to help you decide if you want to sign up for Part B.

If you or your spouse (or family member if you're disabled) is 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. It may be to your advantage to delay Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) enrollment.


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 ends, 3 things happen:

  1. You have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty, 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, you may have to pay a penalty; you won't be able to enroll until January 1–March 3; and you'll have to wait before your coverage begins.
  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.
  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).

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.