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Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

If you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, you should know about the additional protections with Medicare Supplement Plans and your guaranteed issue rights during Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment. Keep in mind that Medicare Supplement Plans only work together with Original Medicare; they cannot be used together with Medicare Advantage plans.

What do Medicare Supplement Plans cover?

Medicare Supplement Plans are private insurance plans that help cover your out-of-pocket costs with Part A and Part B. Although the plans are sold by private insurance companies, plan benefits are standardized by the federal government. In other words, Plan F sold by insurance company X will have essentially the same basic benefits as Plan F sold by company Y.

All Medicare Supplement Plans cover your Part A coinsurance amounts for inpatient hospital care, as well as between 50% and 100% of your Part B coinsurance, hospice coinsurance under Part A, and first three pints of blood for a blood transfusion. After that, depending on the plan you choose, your Part A and/or Part B deductibles, Part B excess charges, and skilled nursing care coinsurance may also be covered. Some plans include an allowance for emergency medical care outside the U.S.

When is Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment?

You have a six-month period beginning the month you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Part B to buy a Medicare Supplement Plan with guaranteed issue rights. Guaranteed issue rights are important, because they let you buy any Medicare Supplement Plan sold in your state, at the same premium as anyone else, regardless of your health status.

Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is one of the only times you have guaranteed issue rights to buy a plan. If you want to buy a plan without guaranteed issue rights, the insurance company can make you undergo medical underwriting before selling you a plan. During medical underwriting, the insurance company looks at your past medical history and any current medical conditions for which you’re under a doctor’s care. If you have a serious or chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, or history of addiction or substance abuse, the insurance company can refuse to sell you a plan. Alternatively, they can charge you a higher premium based on your health status if they are allowed to use medical underwriting.

If you want the extra protection of a Medicare Supplement Plan, you should generally buy it as soon as you are eligible during your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period.

Can I buy a Medicare Supplement Plan outside the Open Enrollment Period?

Technically, you can apply to purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan at any time, even outside the Open Enrollment Period. However, you may not be able to buy the plan you want, or any plan at all.

There are a few other instances when you may have guaranteed issue rights outside the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period:

  • If you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage and your plan stops operating where you live, or you move away from your plan’s service area, you may buy certain Medicare Supplement Plans if you switch to Original Medicare.
  • If you have Original Medicare and employer or union group insurance, and that group coverage is ending, you may buy certain Medicare Supplement Plans.
  • If you signed up for Medicare Advantage when you first enrolled in Medicare, but you decide to switch to Original Medicare within the first 12 months, you can buy any plan sold in your state.
  • If you had a Medigap plan, but dropped it to join Medicare Advantage, but you decided to switch back in less than a year, you can buy the same plan you had before, or one with less comprehensive coverage.
  • If your Medicare Supplement Plan goes bankrupt, or you leave it because the company misled you, you can choose from a limited number of Medicare Supplement Plans.

To find Medicare Supplement plans in your area, enter you zip code on this page.

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