Medicare Supplements are plans that are designed to fill in the gaps in Medicare A & B (“original Medicare”). These plans are also called Medigap plans because they fill in the Medicare ‘gaps’. If you are on Medicare A & B (must be on both) and live in an area where supplement plans are offered, you can sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan.
The common question is just when exactly you can sign up for a plan. Contrary to popular belief, you can sign up for a plan at any time of the year. There are NO annual enrollment periods, like there are with other types of plans, such as Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) plans. There are, however, some enrollment periods that pertain to Medicare Supplement plans. It is essential that you are familiar with these and how they do or do not apply to your specific situation.
- Open Enrollment. Open enrollment for Medicare Supplement plans is not an annual occurrence. Instead, it is a period that revolves around your 65th birthday or when you sign up for Medicare Part B (i.e. if you delay enrollment in Part B due to having some other type of insurance, such as employer group coverage). This initial open enrollment period starts the first day of the month you turn 65 and lasts for six months. Or, if you are enrolling in Part B, after the point at which you turned 65, it starts the day your Part B starts and lasts for six months.
- Guaranteed Issue. There are a handful of “guaranteed issue” periods that apply for those on Medicare wanting to sign up for a Medicare supplement plan. These periods are very diverse, but here are the most common examples: if you are losing Advantage plan coverage due to a plan termination or moving out of the plan’s service area or if you are losing employer coverage. During these time periods, you have approximately two months to sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan on a guaranteed issue basis. This just means that you cannot be declined for coverage or made to pay more, for any reason at all, including poor health.
It is crucial that you sign up for a plan during these periods, if they apply to you. These periods have expiration dates, so to speak, and if you are not in one of these enrollment periods, you may not be eligible to sign up for a plan at all (depends on health, etc.).
If you have any questions about Medicare Supplement enrollment periods or want to get more information, visit Medicare-Supplement.US.