If you’ve done the research and you’ve decided that Medicare Supplement Insurance fits your needs best, great! The right Medicare Supplement insurance policy can help you get a handle on costs associated with your health care and can even give you a few extra benefits. However, knowing when to buy is the key to getting a great policy that you can afford. Take a minute to review some important details on when to buy Medicare Supplement insurance, and be prepared when it’s time to make a choice.
When You’re First Eligible—During Your Medicare Supplement Insurance Open Enrollment Period
The best time to buy Medicare Supplement insurance is when you’re first eligible, during your open enrollment period. This six-month period of time starts when you are 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. For most people, enrollment in Part A and Part B is automatic, and Medicare Supplement insurance open enrollment begins at the same time.
The reason why this is the best time to buy is simple. During your open enrollment, insurance companies must sell you any Medicare Supplement insurance policy sold in your state at the best available rate—even if you have health problems. If you wait more than six months and miss your open enrollment period, you may not be able to buy a Medicare Supplement insurance policy. Or, if you are accepted, the same policy could end up costing you more.
When You Have a Guaranteed Issue Right
There are certain times outside of your Medicare Supplement insurance open enrollment where you may have a “guaranteed issue right,” or the same rights to buy Medicare Supplement insurance at a good rate without medical underwriting denying you coverage. For instance, if you chose to delay signing up for Part B because you have group insurance through an employer, that’s okay. Your open enrollment period will also be delayed until you sign up for Part B. But, instead of having six months, you only have 63 days to join Medicare Supplement insurance with the same guaranteed issue right.
Here are some other times when you may have a guaranteed issue right to buy Medicare Supplement insurance.
- An employer group health insurance plan is ending.
- You joined a Medicare Advantage plan when you were first eligible,
but now, within the first year, you would like to return to Original Medicare.
- You dropped a Medicare Supplement insurance policy to join a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time and you’ve been in the plan for less than a year and want to switch back.
- Your previous Medicare Supplement insurance policy or Medicare Advantage plan ends through no fault of your own.
- You’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, but you move out of the plan’s service area.
During Medicare Open Enrollment
If you miss your Medicare Supplement insurance open enrollment or do not have a guaranteed issue right for another reason, you may be able to buy a policy during Annual Open Enrollment. However, insurance companies selling during this time are allowed to use medical underwriting as a deciding factor. In other words, they can use your current health status to decide whether to sell you a policy, and even to determine how much to charge you.
The key to buying Medicare Supplement insurance during Medicare Open Enrollment is to comparison shop. Insurance companies are not required to charge the same for the same exact plans—and they don’t. Be sure to look closely at not only benefits, but also, the cost of each plan side-by-side before deciding to buy. With good research, you may be able to find the same plan for less offered through another provider.
A Note on Switching Medicare Supplement Insurance Policies
If you currently have a Medicare Supplement insurance policy but realize that you’re paying for benefits you don’t need, or need benefits you don’t have, switching policies may make sense. However, in order to switch to a different policy, you must have a guaranteed issue right, or be within your Medicare Supplement insurance open enrollment period.
If you do switch to a new Medicare Supplement insurance policy, you have 30 days to decide if you want to keep the new policy. Your “free look period” starts when you get your new policy. Note: during your 30-day trial, you will be responsible for paying both premiums for one month. And, it is your responsibility to make sure you cancel your old policy.