Enrolling in Medicare Plans

There are a variety of times you can enroll in or change Medicare plans and supplements. Ads may announce it is Medicare Open Enrollment time, but it might not be true for your type of plan or your circumstance or even where you live (yes, it can vary by state). Additionally, it is best to take advantage of opportunities for “guaranteed issue” on your new policy – that means, there is no underwriting and you can’t be denied coverage based on your medical history.

We can help you review your options! But, here are some basic guidelines on Medicare Open Enrollment Periods that allow people to switch plans without the possibility of being declined coverage:

When you are first eligible for Medicare there’s a fairly straightforward process. You can apply for coverage on any supplemental or prescription drug plan during the three months before and three months after your 65th birthday month. You cannot be denied coverage during that time.

If you remained on an employer’s plan after turning 65 and are now leaving that job, you have two months after leaving to apply for Part B and any supplemental coverage, also without the possibility of being denied coverage.

Changing your Medicare Part D plan, enrolling in or dropping one can be done during the annual enrollment period during first quarter of the year.

Moving to or from a Medicare Advantage Plan from original Medicare can be done from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 and takes effect Jan. 1.

If you changed plans and are unhappy, you generally have to wait until the next available period. However, if you switched to a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time and are not satisfied, you can switch back within the first 12 months.

Part A/Part B general enrollment is Jan. 1 – March 31 for those who did not sign up when first eligible. The coverage begins in July of that year. You can apply for supplemental coverage during that time as well.

It’s your birthday, and you want to change Medicare Supplement plans. In California, your birthday creates a 60-days window during which you can chance to another plan with equal or lesser benefits without medical underwriting. The unique California Birthday Rule recognizes that your rates may go up because you got older and allows you to see if another carrier has lower rates. (In other states, you can apply to change Medigap plan carriers but must get approved by underwriting.)

Additionally, an insurance company or the government may declare a special enrollment period that provides a new opportunity. For example, one insurer in California offered guaranteed enrollment in early 2020 to those on similar plans at other carriers. Medicare created a special enrollment period during the COVID-19 crisis too.