Eligible individuals can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, commonly referred to as Medigap, at any time, but the best time to enroll is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
Medigap plans fill in the gaps in coverage that Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) do not cover, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Medigap plans might also cover services that Original Medicare does not cover, like medical care when you are traveling outside of the United States. The out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare can really add up over time, making a Medigap plan a good choice for some.
When is my Medigap Open Enrollment Period?
Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period begins the first day of the month that you are both over the age of 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B, and lasts for a total of six months. For example, if you turned 65 on June 15 and enrolled in Medicare Part B on July 3, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period would begin on August 1, the first day of the month that you are both over 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
Once your Medigap Open Enrollment Period begins, it cannot be replaced or delayed, so we recommend taking full advantage of the benefits of this period, shopping for a plan that suits your needs, and enrolling within this six-month window.
Why should I enroll in a plan during my Medigap Open Enrollment Period?
Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies that are generally able to use medical underwriting when reviewing an application. This underwriting could lead the company to deny your application or charge more for a policy based on your health situation. However, during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, these companies are not able to use medical underwriting and must sell you the plan of your choice for the same price as they would offer it to someone in good health. This is also referred to as having the guaranteed issue right to any plan of your choosing.
What happens if I miss my Medigap Open Enrollment Period?
If you miss this six-month window, you are still eligible to enroll in a plan in your area if you are over the age of 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B. The major drawback is that now you may be susceptible to medical underwriting, and your application could be denied by the insurance company offering the plan, or your application could be accepted and the insurance company charges more than you were hoping to spend.
It is also important to note that, if you live in certain states, you may be able to buy another type of Medicare Supplement plan known as Medicare SELECT. If you purchase one of these policies, you have the right to change your mind within 12 months and switch to a standard Medigap plan without penalty.
Are there Medigap plan options in my area?
Medigap plan availability varies depending on where you live and which private insurance companies are offering plans in your area. These insurance companies offer standardized lettered Medigap plans, meaning that a Medigap Plan F in Utah offers the same benefits as a Medigap Plan F in Massachusetts, but may charge different out-of-pocket expenses. To be sure that you are spending the least amount for the greatest coverage in your area, we recommend shopping around and purchasing a Medigap plan during your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
Read more from about Medigap at Medicare.gov: