Medicare supplement plans are available for purchase in all 50 states. During your one-time open enrollment window, you are guaranteed the right to purchase Medicare supplement plan, also called a Medigap plan, regardless of your health status. Some features of Medigap plans are:
- You must have Part A and Part B to be able to buy a Medigap policy.
- Medicare supplements cover only one person. Your spouse must have his or her own individual policy.
- You can drop your supplement at any time. This is a private policy, just like life insurance would be.
- Supplements are guaranteed renewable no matter what health conditions you may develop. They can not be cancelled by the insurance company due to medical conditions.
- The annual election period in the fall is for drug plans, and does not apply to Medicare supplement plans in any way.
Medicare supplement open enrollment
Per Medicare’s own Guide to Health Insurance, the best time to buy a supplement policy is during your open enrollment window. This window begins on the first day of your birth month, or the month that you enroll in Part B, and lasts for six months.
During open enrollment, the Medicare supplement company is not allowed to ask you any medical questions, nor can they turn you down for any health conditions. They cannot refuse you a policy or charge you any additional amount due to health conditions, medications yor take or pre-existing illnesses.
After this window passes, however, future insurance companies that you might apply with can accept or decline you based on health, and that is why the handbook states that this is the best time to enroll – because you know you will be accepted if you apply during open enrollment.
Medicare supplement guaranteed issue
Some people delay enrollment into a supplement because they have group health coverage through an employer. In most cases, that insurance is primary to Medicare, which Medicare functions as a secondary insurance after your group health plan. Later when you retire or lose that coverage, you will be given guaranteed issue rights to purchase a policy within the 63 days following the loss of your group coverage. The guaranteed issue window works just like open enrollment, except that is a shorter period of time. The insurance company cannot deny your application for any health reasons whatsoever.
There are some other circumstances which create a guaranteed issue window as well, such as losing Medicare Advantage coverage when moving out of state. Guaranteed issue rules can vary by state, so be sure to check with a licensed agent who can give you accurate information about the laws that apply in your state. Our agency is licensed in over 40 states, so feel free to contact us if you would like for us to check for you.
You will want to keep any notices or memos from your prior carrier that show proof of your creditable coverage for guaranteed issue and also so that you do not incur the Part D late enrollment penalty.
Medicare supplement – Underwritten
If your window has already passed for open enrollment or guaranteed issue, you can still apply for a Medicare supplement, but you will have to answer some health questions on your application, and the insurance company will then decide whether or not it will approve a policy for you.
Some people are confused by this because they believe the Annual Drug Election Period in the fall is a time when they can change their supplement without underwriting. Unfortunately, the election period only applies to drug plans. Changing Medigap carriers will require underwriting in most cases. Before you choose a carrier and apply though, you first need to decide which of the Medicare Supplement standardized plans seems like it will be the best fit for you.
Medicare Supplement plan options
Since there are several standardized plans available to you in each state, you will want to carefully review the benefits for each supplement plan. Think carefully about which one fits your needs the best, and don’t hesitate to contact our agency for more information on the benefits included in each of these plans. Once you’ve selected the most suitable plan, we can provide quotes for all of the companies that offer that plan.
To continue learning about Medicare and supplements, go to our Medicare Supplement Comparison Chart.