For many people looking to enroll in a new health insurance plan, fall is the season they’ve been waiting for. Open Enrollment for general health insurance plans runs from November 1 through December 15, and if you’ve purchased health insurance in the last decade then you know that this is the only time of year that you can get a new plan or switch your existing plan (unless you’ve experienced a qualifying life event). But what if you’re turning 65 and are getting ready to enroll in Medicare, and are looking for a Medicare Supplement Plan? Does Open Enrollment still apply to you? The answer is no – and it’s important that you’re familiar with Medicare’s separate timeline for enrollment, especially if you want to take advantage of the benefits of a Medicare Supplement Plan.
When Can You Enroll in Medicare?
First, let’s take a look at when you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. If you’re approaching your 65th birthday, be aware that you have a total of 7 months to enroll in Medicare Parts A (hospital coverage) and B (medical coverage): the 3 months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and the 3 months after the month you turn 65.
There are some exceptions to this rule: for example, if you are still working at 65 and are covered by a group health plan, you’ll get an 8-month Special Enrollment Period (SEP) after you give up your employer-based insurance in which to sign up for Medicare without a penalty. If you simply choose to put off enrollment, though, you’ll probably end up paying a penalty for as long as you have Medicare, so it’s best to enroll as soon as you can.
When Is Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment?
Let’s be honest about Medicare. It’s great, but there’s no denying that there are gaps in coverage that you might be unhappy with. For example, while Part A doesn’t have a premium, it does have a deductible, and Part B has both a deductible and a monthly premium. In addition, Part B only covers 80% of your approved medical costs – the other 20% is up to you. So, what can you do? Your best bet is to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan: there are 10 different plans to choose from, and each helps to cover the out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare sticks you with.
But if you’re looking to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan, you do need to plan ahead. The answer to the question “when is Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment?” is not as simple as the answer to “when is Open Enrollment for general insurance?” The latter comes around every year, but you only have one chance for open enrollment into a Medicare Supplement Plan.
Your personal Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period begins on the first day that your Part B goes into effect and lasts for 6 months. So, if your Medicare Part A and B coverage begins on June 1, then you will have until November 30th of that year to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan.
Be aware that you do not have to wait until your Part B coverage kicks in to apply for your Medicare Supplement Plan – you can submit your application as soon as you know your Medicare claim number. With a little planning ahead, you can avoid any gaps in your coverage!
What Happens If You Miss Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment?
It’s important to discuss why you should take advantage of your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. If you miss your 6-month window, you can still apply for coverage, but there’s no guarantee that you will get the plan you want – or that it will be affordable. This is because your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is the only time that you are protected from the Medicare underwriting process.
Take a look at a Medicare Supplement Plan application form and you’ll see a whole page of questions related to your health history. An insurance company can look at your answers to those questions and decide whether or not to cover you, and can also use your answers to raise the price of your premiums. But you can avoid answering any health questions if you apply during your Open Enrollment. In this 6-month window, your insurance company must accept your application and offer you coverage, no matter your health status. So you can see how important it is that you take advantage of your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period.
Are There Any Second Chances?
Knowing about your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is important if you want to make sure to get the best coverage at the best price. But there are some circumstances under which you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan without underwriting outside of your initial Open Enrollment Period. For example:
- If you were eligible for Medicare before you were 65 (due to disability), then you will have a second Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period open up to you when you turn 65.
- If you are still working at 65 and enrolled in both Original Medicare AND a group health insurance plan, then you will most likely not be purchasing a Medicare Supplement Plan during your Open Enrollment Period. In this case, when you retire and drop your employer-based health plan, you will be given a 63-day guaranteed issue (GI) period during which you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan without answering any health questions. Be aware, though, that Plan G, which is one of the most popular Medicare Supplement Plans, is NOT guaranteed issue in this situation.
- Some states, like California and Oregon, have an Annual Open Enrollment for Medicare Supplement Plans. This enrollment window is usually 30 days out of the year. Don’t rely on this option, though: the catch is that you can only change your plan without going through the underwriting process – you cannot enroll for the first time.
If you’re approaching 65, now’s the time to start making your Medicare plan. Know your Enrollment Periods, and apply as early as you can so that you don’t end up with any gaps in coverage. And don’t forget to research Medicare Supplement Plans! They are a vital part of keeping you both physically and financially healthy as you head into your golden years. If you’re unsure where to start, talk to one of Best Insurance Group’s knowledgeable agents. We’ll answer all of your questions, get you all the quotes for all the plans available to you, and find you the perfect coverage – and we’ll do it all for free! Get started with us today!