Your Rights When Investing in Supplemental Health Insurance

Investing in supplemental Medicare insurance can be a tricky process, so it is important to know what your rights are when considering this important investment.

You probably know that the best time to buy a Medicare supplement plan 2018 is during your “open enrollment period,” which starts when you turn 65. Insurance companies can’t turn you away because of a pre-existing condition during this time period. But if you missed your open enrollment period, don’t worry. You still may have the legal right to purchase a Medigap plan from a private insurance company.

The government guarantees you the right to buy a Medicare supplement plan by what they call “guaranteed issue rights.” Under these rights, the insurance company must comply in three different ways: 1.) Sell you supplemental Medicare insurance, 2.) Cover all pre-existing conditions under the insurance policy, 3.) Not charge you more for your policy based on health problems, past or present.

There are several situations that will give you a guaranteed right to buy a Medigap policy. One such occasion is when you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, and the plan either leaves Medicare or if you move out of the area of coverage for that plan. If you fall into this category, make sure to apply within 63 days after your current health coverage ends.

With such time when you have a guaranteed right to supplemental Medicare insurance is when your employer group health plan or union coverage ends. This may include retiree or COBRA coverage. Again, make sure to apply within 63 calendar days after your coverage ends.

If you are using a Medicare SELECT policy, but move out of that policy’s coverage area, you will be allowed to switch to a new Medigap plan in your new state or area. Also, if your supplemental Medicare insurance company happens to go out of business or misleads you in some way, you will still have the right to switch to a new policy with a new company in your state. The 63-day rule also applies here.

You also may have another right, called a “trial right,” that lets you get the coverage you desire. Any occasion when you join a Medicare Advantage Plan for the first time, you still have the right to switch within the first year of joining. If you are switching back to a Medicare supplement plan after switching to a Medicare Advantage Plan, then you must choose the same policy that you had before.

It is extremely important to keep notes and copies of any documents and letters that you receive or send throughout the process of applying for Medigap policies. Also make sure to keep the envelopes as well, because they will be postmarked and have dates on them as proof in case you need it.

Even though in most cases you have 63 days after your existing coverage ends to apply for a new Medicare supplement plan, you should get started early. You are allowed to apply for a new plan 60 days before your current coverage ends, so it won’t hurt to get a head start.

Don’t feel like you are going to be left out in the cold just because someone tells you that you may not qualify for Medigap. Know your rights, because you have more of them than you may think.