Medicare open enrollment is a six month period which includes the three months before and after a consumer’s 65th birthday. In many cases, it is advantageous for seniors to purchase a Medicare supplement policy during their open enrollment window. Under certain circumstances, consumers who allow their six month window to expire may not medically qualify for a supplemental plan.
Guaranteed Eligibility at Age 65
Medicare qualified seniors are guaranteed eligible for insurance during open enrollment regardless of their health history. Health underwriting is not necessary and there are no medical questions to answer on an application. All Medigap insurance plans offered in the applicant’s state will be available for purchase. Simply put, insurance companies cannot deny Medigap coverage if application is made during the six month time-frame.
Other Guaranteed Periods of Eligibility
There are other time periods of guaranteed eligibility for Medicare supplement insurance for those outside of their six month window. Consumers age 65 and older who are involuntarily losing group health insurance or group supplemental coverage will also be guaranteed a Medicare supplement plan. However, they may have to go through underwriting for certain plans (Plan J for example) and they might not be offered premium discounts on their plan choice.
Additional Advantages of Purchasing Coverage in Open Enrollment
There are many supplemental insurance providers who provide discounts during open enrollment. In some cases, the applicant’s price reduction can be as much as 15%. This savings will carry over into subsequent years helping to keep premiums lower as the insured grows older. Additionally, some insurance companies will require underwriting for popular supplements, like Plan J, if the applicant is more than three months past their 65th birthday. If applying during open enrollment, health underwriting will not be required for Plan J.
Medicare Disability and Open Enrollment
In some states, acceptance into Medicare disability is a qualifying event for guaranteed coverage. Consumers under age 65 who are approved for government disability will have a six month window to purchase a Medicare supplement regardless of health history. (Missouri is one such state.) It is very advantageous for Medicare disability consumers to enroll in a plan during their six month opening. Otherwise, they will have to go through medical underwriting and acceptance would be unlikely due to health concerns.
In summary, seniors near their 65th birthday and disabled persons eligible for Medicare coverage should consider applying for supplemental coverage. Applying during a period of open enrollment will render underwriting unnecessary, allow for more plan choices, and also offer premium discounts.