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Medicare Supplement Enrollment Periods

Unlike some of the other parts of Medicare, you can enroll in a Medicare supplement (or change your current supplement) at any time. That being said, some times are better than others.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Your IEP is a 7-month window around your 65th birthday. It starts three months before your birthday month and ends three months after. For example, if your birthday is on May 12, your IEP runs from February 1 to August 31. During this time, you’ll be able to enroll in Parts A and B of Original Medicare and any other Medicare-related plans such as a Medicare supplement.

Your IEP gives you guaranteed issue rights to any Medicare supplement you want. You’ll be able to choose any of the ten plans and any insurance company you want, and you are guaranteed access to that plan. (The exception to this is Plan F, which limits enrollment to those who turned 65 before January 1, 2020.)

You won’t need to pass medical underwriting during this time, and the insurance carrier can’t charge you higher premiums due to your health history.

The same guaranteed issue rules apply to individuals who postpone Medicare enrollment. For example, many people are working past the age of 65 and stay on their employer-sponsored plan. As long as that plan was creditable, they’ll have guaranteed issue rights to a Medicare supplement when they lose their employer coverage.

Guaranteed Issue Situations

There are other times when you’ll have guaranteed issue rights, but with some limitations.

If you choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage (Part C), you will have a Trial Right for your first year of enrollment. That means that if you decide that you want to switch to a Medicare supplement within that first year, you’ll have guaranteed issue rights. However, which Medicare supplement you’ll have the right to will depend on various factors like your birthday and if you had a Medicare supplement before tying Medicare Advantage.

Other times when you might find yourself with guaranteed issue rights include your Medicare SELECT or Medicare Advantage plan moving from the service area, your insurance company breaking Medicare rules, or your carrier going bankrupt.

State-Specific Birthday Rule

A handful of states have their own rules around when you can enroll in a Medicare supplement without undergoing medical underwriting.

Five states allow you to change your Medicare supplement without underwriting each year around your birthday. The enrollment windows range from 31 days to 91 days. You can use this time to enroll in the same plan (but with a different company) or a plan that provides less coverage (like switching from Plan F to Plan G).

The five states with birthday rules include:

● California
● Idaho
● Illinois
● Nevada
● Oregon

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