One of the most common questions seniors ask is “when should I buy a Medicare supplement policy?” This is a great question!
The best time to buy is during your open enrollment period. This is a 6-month period that begins on the first day of the month you’re enrolled in both Medicare Parts A & B and you are 65 or older. This 6-month window is the ideal time to buy a Medigap plan because there is NO medical underwriting!!! This means an insurance company cannot refuse to sell you any Medicare supplement plan that they offer, charge you more than what they charge for someone in perfect health, or delay the start date for your coverage. However, not all Medicare supplement carriers offer every plan – they’re only required to offer plans A, C, and F, but can choose to offer any or all of the other plans (B, D, Hi-F, G, K, L, M, and N).
You can apply for your plan up to 3 months before your Part B effective date. For example, if you were born on April 10th, you can apply as early as January 1st and establish an effective date of April 1st for your Part A, Part B, and Medigap coverage.
It’s important to note that while a carrier cannot make you wait for your policy to start, they may be able to make you wait for coverage to kick in for a pre-existing condition – a pre-existing condition is a health condition that you have been treated for within the 6 months before your new policy begins (called the look-back period). After the waiting period has ended, the pre-existing condition will be covered. However, if you are replacing creditable coverage, it’s possible to reduce the waiting period or eliminate it all together if the creditable coverage has been in force for at least the last 6 months. Many carriers ask applicants to skip their health questions if they’re applying during their open enrollment period and will cover the pre-existing condition from day one.
If you do not apply during your open enrollment period, an insurance company can use medical underwriting to determine your eligibility – if you have certain health problems, you may not be able to qualify for a policy, unless you’re eligible for a guaranteed-issue right.