Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period allows you to enroll in any Medigap plan without answering health questions. This window happens once in your life and is the best time to sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan. Although you can still sign up for a Medigap plan at any time of the year, your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period prohibits carriers from denying you coverage due to any pre-existing health conditions.
What is the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Plans?
- Once-in-a-lifetime window (unless collecting SSDI)
- Begins the same day as your Part B effective date
- No health questions during this time
- Not the same as the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
Applying outside your open enrollment window can result in higher premiums, as well as restrict your coverage options. This window only lasts for six months for each new beneficiary.
Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is not the same as the fall Annual Election Period. AEP pertains to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans and the dates are the same every year. With your individual Medigap Open Enrollment Period, the dates are unique to you and it only concerns Medicare Supplement plans.
Your individual Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period starts the first day of the month your Part B is in effect. You must also be 65 for this window to begin. For example, if your Part B coverage begins April 1st, then your individual Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period window will start then and continue for six months, ending September 30th.
For most, this period starts when they age into Medicare at 65 and enroll in Part B. Yet, others choose to delay enrolling in Part B due to creditable coverage through their large employer group plan. When they do retire and enroll in Part B, their Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period will commence on their Part B effective date.
Preparing for Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment
Those who plan and apply for Medicare early will receive their Medicare card before their 65th birthday month. If you have your Medicare card, we can submit your Medigap application before your Part B effective date. The carrier will process your application as if you’re already in your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, with no health questions.
Once you apply for Medicare, there’s no need to wait to enroll in a supplement plan until you turn 65. With rates constantly changing, we often help our clients lock in their Medigap plan months before their 65th birthday. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to buy the policy until you’re 65 and have Part B.
Do Some People Get a Second Open Enrollment Period for Medigap?
There are very few situations where a beneficiary will get a second Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
- If you retire, enroll in Part B, then go back to work and join your employer’s group healthcare coverage, you’ll get a second Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period when you retire again and enroll back into Part B.
- If you get Medicare due to a disability under 65, you’ll get two Medigap Open Enrollment Periods. The first will start with your original Part B effective date before you turn 65. The second will begin when you turn 65.
One reason a beneficiary on Medicare due to disability would choose not to enroll during their first Medigap OEP is having minimal options due to their age. Not all states require carriers to offer at least one Medigap plan to people under 65.
In fact, most states with the requirement only offer Plan A (or equivalent, minimal coverage) to those under 65. If someone who originally qualified due to disability waits to enroll in a Medigap plan until they turn 65, they’ll be able to choose from all the policies available to them in their state.
Another reason a beneficiary on Medicare collecting SSDI would not enroll in a Medigap plan during their first Medicare Supplement OEP is that the premiums are too expensive. Unfortunately, most states have astronomical Medigap premiums for those under 65. Once they age into Medicare and their second OEP begins, the rates quoted will be much more affordable.
When Can You Sign Up for Medicare Supplement Plans?
When it comes to Medicare Supplement plans, you can join at any time of the year. If your Open Enrollment window has passed, you can still apply. However, you’ll most likely have to go through medical underwriting and answer health questions during the application process.
Outside your one-time open enrollment window, a carrier can deny you coverage due to pre-existing conditions or health issues. The only way around this is if you’re granted guaranteed issue rights due to a circumstance that would qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period.
Some states have unique open enrollment rules, like Connecticut and California. California has a birthday rule that allows you to enroll in Medigap around your birthday each year, without answering health questions. In Connecticut, there is a year-round open enrollment window for all beneficiaries. So if you live in one of these states, you have a unique benefit that most beneficiaries don’t!
Making the Most of Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period
Timing can affect how much you pay for coverage, how easy coverage is to obtain, and it can what options are available to you. The Megiap OEP is the only time that allows you to enroll in any Medigap letter plan without needing to answer any health questions. By law, the carrier must approve your application for coverage, regardless of any health issues.
After your individual Medigap Open Enrollment Period ends, a carrier can choose to deny you coverage based on your current health status. Many new beneficiaries have pre-existing health problems that could end up preventing them from getting coverage.
If you enroll during your Medicare Supplement Open enrollment period, these health problems will not prevent them from getting coverage. That’s why we strive to educate our clients on the importance of enrolling during this once-in-a-lifetime window.
What’s the Difference Between the Fall Annual Enrollment Period and Medigap Open Enrollment Period?
The Fall Annual Enrollment Period takes place every year from October 15 through December 7. During this period, you can enroll, disenroll, or change Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans. The majority of new beneficiaries that enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan end up wanting to switch back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and pair it with a Medicare Supplement plan. The biggest reason is not being able to see their current primary physician due to the restrictive provider networks Advantage plans involve.
Many new to Medicare are under the impression that they can enroll in a Medigap plan and bypass health questions during the fall Annual Enrollment Period.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions and causes the most problems for beneficiaries, and why knowledge of enrollment periods is so important. During AEP, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or disenroll from one and enroll back in Original Medicare. If you return to Original Medicare, you can then enroll in prescription drug plan coverage and Medigap.
If you do enroll in an Advantage plan at any point during the year, you’ll have an opportunity to make changes to it annually during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.
What if I Miss My Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period?
When you miss your Medigap Open Enrollment Period and are denied coverage, there are alternative options. If you have a serious health condition that causes a Medigap carrier not to accept you, you should be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Advantage plans only have one health question, and most applicants can pass. However, you’ll have to wait until the fall enrollment period to sign up for one of these plans.
You’ll be required to stay within the plan’s network of doctors. However, if you’re willing to pay more for a PPO plan that gives you access to doctors outside their network, you may be able to keep the same doctor.
How to Get Help During Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period
At MedicareFAQ, our agents truly care about you. They'll be able to teach you on all the different enrollment periods to make sure you don't miss out. If you're already outside your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, we're still here to help you find a plan.
Our agents will be more than happy to answer all your questions and walk you through the health questions to see if you qualify. Our clients also get unlimited support from our Client Care Team.
If you have any issues with claims, appeals, Part D, or want to rate shop, they're by your side. Contact us by calling the number above or use our rate comparison tool to see premiums near you now.