The best time to get a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan is during your initial open enrollment period when you first become eligible for Medicare. During this time, insurance companies do not use medical underwriting, so your health problems cannot be used to deny your access to a Medigap plan. Even if you have a pre-existing condition, your application is guaranteed to be accepted.
So, when is your open enrollment period for Medicare Supplement Insurance? Your open enrollment for Medicare is slightly different than for Medigap, but the periods do overlap. If you are 65, you can apply for Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan, or a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan from three months before the month you turn 65. That’s seven months for you to decide whether how to get your Medicare benefits, but your Medicare coverage will be delayed unless you enroll before you turn 65.
If you are eligible for Medicare due to disability, you also have a seven-month period to enroll. Just substitute your 25th month of receiving disability benefits for the month of your 65th birthday. It’s true that seniors have more options when it comes to Medigap plans, but 29 states mandate Medigap plans be made available to Medicare beneficiaries under the age of 65.
For seniors, all states guarantee the right to Medigap insurance for a period of six months. Open enrollment starts the first day of the month in which you are at least 65 and enrolled in Part B. Even if you are beyond open enrollment, Medigap plans are available throughout the year. You don’t have to wait for the annual open enrollment period in October to apply, at least while your health is good.
If you want to totally replace original Medicare, you can enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Advantage plan. These plans can’t be combined with Medigap or Part D Drug plans, but many Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage. These plans have an annual open enrollment period every October 15 through December 7. Since Medicare Advantage plans are federally subsidized, they frequently offer low premiums, but you do have to pay Part B premiums when you have an Advantage plan.
With Medicare Advantage plans, all applications are guaranteed to be accepted independent of pre-existing health conditions with the exception of end-stage renal disease. Advantage plans provide Medicare Part A (hospital), Part B (doctor) and usually Part D (prescription drug) coverage.
If you change your mind about a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave the plan and switch back to original Medicare each year from Januray 1 until February 14. At that time, you can also add a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan to help you pay for your medication.
Jim McFadden has over 11 years of executive-level experience in the health insurance industry, is a youth baseball, softball and football coach, and has one of the worst fantasy football records in the world.