Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Open Enrollment

Is there an open enrollment period for Medicare supplements? Yes, but it may not be exactly what you think.

Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period refers to the window of time that allows you to sign up for a Medicare Supplement Plan (also called a Medigap Plan) without fear of being rejected or having to answer sensitive health questions — the answers to which could end up raising your premiums.

Most people only have access to this window once — twice, under some rare instances. Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment does not occur once a year, unlike the annual open enrollment periods for Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D.

Instead, your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period begins on your Part B effective date and ends six (6) months later on the last day of the 6th month.

Learning about this period and planning ahead for it is critical. Otherwise, you may be forced to answer underwriting questions that could jeopardize your ability to find an affordable Medicare Supplement plan — or one that is willing to cover you at all.

When Is Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Open Enrollment?

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment starts on the day that your Part B coverage is effective. This period ends on the last day of the sixth month after it starts. So if, for example, your Part B benefits started on April 3, then the last day of your Medicare Open Enrollment would be September 30.

Since most people’s Medicare coverage activates when they turn 65, you can think of this period as ending six months after your 65th birthday.

The majority of beneficiaries will only get one such window in their lifetime. Afterward, they will be required to answer health questions when they change plans. The answers to these health questions could cause your insurance premiums to go up, or you could be denied coverage altogether.

Note that you can begin looking for a Medicare supplement plan as soon as you are eligible for Medicare enrollment, which includes the three months before your 65th birthday.

When You Might Get Two Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Periods in a Lifetime

There are only two exceptions to the “once in a lifetime” Medicare supplement open enrollment rule. The first is Individuals under 65 with disabilities. The second is Individuals who start working again and drop Part B temporarily.

Individuals Under 65 with Disabilities

If you began receiving Medicare coverage before 65 because of a qualifying disability, then you have a second Medicare supplement open enrollment period of 6 months that begins the month of your 65th birthday

Individuals Who Start Working Again and Drop Part B Temporarily

If you decide to start working again with an employer who offers a group insurance plan, you can disenroll from Part B (and any supplement plans) and utilize your employer’s group health coverage. Then when you retire again, you will sign up for Medicare Part B again and this will initiate a new 6 month open enrollment window. 

Your Medicare supplement open enrollment period activates again once your Part B benefits resume.

Is There an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplements During the Year?

Unlike Medicare Part A-D, there is no annual period you are restricted to if you want to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan after your initial open enrollment period ends. You can sign up whenever you want, regardless of the time of year.

The only reason to be discouraged from doing so is that you will be asked questions on your Medigap plan application once your initial Medicare supplement open enrollment period has lapsed. The answers to these questions are applied to the policy’s underwriting formula, potentially raising your costs or denying you coverage altogether.

Do You Get a Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period if You Continue to Work After Signing up for Original Medicare?

Unfortunately, no. If you are in a situation where you have signed up for Medicare Part A and Part B but continue working and stay on your employer’s group plan, then your open enrollment period still applies to the six months after your Part B benefits begin — irrespective of when you ultimately retire.

You can, however, get a Guaranteed Issue period that acts similar to your Medicare supplement open enrollment period. It lasts 63 days after you finally drop your employer’s group coverage but there are limits to the plans available.

Guaranteed Issue only applies to Medigap plans A, B, C, F, K or L. This leaves off a number of popular Medigap plans, most notably Plan G. You may apply for these other plans but there’s no guarantee that an insurance company will sell you a Medigap policy if you don’t meet the medical underwriting requirements. (Note that Plan C and Plan F will no longer be available to new applicants after January 1, 2020.)

Choosing the Right Medigap Plan for Your Needs Within Your Open Enrollment Period

Because avoiding underwriting can be important in choosing the best Medigap plan, you want to be organized and ready to enroll in a plan during your Medigap Open Enrollment period.

Choosing the right Medigap plan can be daunting, especially when there’s an alphabet soup of options available. We aim to simplify the process and provide personalized guidance to help you make the optimal choice for you and your evolving health needs.

If you need questions answered or guidance on selecting the perfect mix of Medicare coverage, you can reach out to us. Call us at (678) 807-8414 or contact us online to get unbiased advice that can help you Protect What’s Ahead.

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