What are Medigap Protections?
Guaranteed-issue is a right granted to Medicare beneficiaries and applies to Medicare Supplement insuranceMedicare Supplements are additional insurance policies that Medicare beneficiaries can purchase to cover the gaps in their Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B) health insurance coverage. (aka, Medigap plans). All states and the federal government enforce this essential right, which protects Medicare beneficiaries from medical underwriting.
- Medigap protections (guaranteed-issue right) protect beneficiaries from being denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition.
- Protection is for a limited period of time.
- In some circumstances, a beneficiaryA person who has health care insurance through the Medicare or Medicaid programs. may have their Medigap protections restored.
- Some states grant additional protections not required by the federal government.
Unlike regular health insurance, which was reformed by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), supplemental Medicare insurance companies can use your health history and data on pre-existing conditionsA pre-existing condition is any health problem that occurred before enrolling in a health plan. The Affordable Care Act law made it illegal for health plans to or charge more due to a pre-existing condition.... to make their coverage determinationA coverage determination is the first decision made by a Medicare Part D plan (not the pharmacy) about a plan member's drug benefits.. In other words, they can turn you down or make you pay more due to a pre-existing condition.
The process Medicare supplement companies use to approve or disapprove your application is called medical underwriting. However, there are two situations that allow you to apply for coverage without going through medical underwriting.
Find Plans in your area with your ZIP Code
The first situation is when you’re first eligible for Medicare Part BMedicare Part B is medical coverage for people with Original Medicare benefits. It covers doctor visits, preventative care, tests, durable medical equipment, and supplies. Medicare Part B pays 80 percent of most medically necessary healthcare services. and you’re also enrolled in Medicare Part AMedicare Part A is hospital coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. It covers inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. It also covers limited home healthcare services and hospice care.. this is your individual open enrollment periodDuring the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, Medicare Advantage and Part D plan members can change, switch, or drop a plan they chose during the Annual Election Period. OEP starts on January 1 and ends on March 31. (OEP). It starts as soon as your Part B benefits begin and ends six months later.
The second situation is when you exercise a trial right or when you lose health insurance through a situation outside of your control. This might be because you stop working, and lose your employer group coverage, or because you move. These situations, like your OEP, trigger your guaranteed issue rights, and you can’t be turned down, and you won’t be asked health questions.
What is the Guaranteed Issue Period for Medicare Supplements?
When you turn age 65, or first enroll in Medicare Part B (whichever comes later), your one-time-only period to buy any Medigap plan you want, without question, begins. This is a six-month period of time, during which you have guaranteed issue rights. These rights allow you to choose your supplement, and the company you want to buy it from, without fear of being rejected based on your health or age.
After your six-month open enrollmentIn health insurance, open enrollment is a period during which a person may enroll in or change their selection of health plan benefits. Health plan enrollment is ordinarily subject to restrictions. period has ended, all bets are off. That does not mean you won’t be able to get a Medicare supplement policy, it simply means that there’s no guarantee that your application will be accepted.
When you have a guaranteed issue right, the insurance company you choose:
- Must sell you a Medigap policy
- Must cover all your pre-existing health conditions
- Can’t charge you more for a Medigap policy because of past or present health problems
Without your guaranteed issue right, Medigap insurance companies can and will ask you health questions on their application, just like you would answer when applying for life insurance. To get coverage, you must be able to pass medical underwriting.
You also have a guaranteed issue right when you have other health insurance that changes in some way, like when you retire and no longer have coverage under your employer’s group health planA group health plan is a health plan offered by an employer or employee organization that provides health coverage to employees, their families, and retirees.. Another common scenario is when you have a “trial right” to try Medicare Advantage and later change your mind.
Can I buy a Medigap policy if I lose coverage through my employer?
In most cases, yes. You typically retain your guaranteed issue right to buy a Medigap plan if you were covered by your employer’s group health plan, but then lose this coverage. However, you will need to prove that you had coverage and when it ended. Make sure you keep a copy of any letters, notices, emails, and/or claimA request for payment that you submit to Medicare or other health insurance when you get items and services that you think are covered. denials that have your name on them as proof of your coverage. Use the postmarked envelope these papers come in as proof of when it was mailed (i.e., termination). The insurance company you choose may require you to send a copy of these documents with your application to prove you have a guaranteed issue right.
What other situations give me a Guaranteed Issue Right?
You have a guaranteed issue right in these situations:
- You have a Medicare Advantage planMedicare Advantage (MA), also known as Medicare Part C, are health plans from private insurance companies that are available to people eligible for Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B). and the plan is leaving Medicare or stops giving care in your area
- You have a Medicare Advantage plan and move out of the plan’s service area.
- You have Original MedicareOriginal Medicare is private fee-for-service health insurance for people on Medicare. It has two parts. Part A is hospital coverage. Part B is medical coverage. and an employer group health plan (or union coverage) that pays after Medicare pays and that plan is ending.
- You have Original Medicare and a Medicare SELECTMedicare SELECT is a type of Medigap policy (Medicare supplement plan) that requires its members to get their primary care from a contracted provider. policy and you move out of the Medicare SELECT plan’s service area.
- You have Medicare due to a disability and you’re turning age 65.
- You joined a Medicare Advantage Plan or Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) when you were first eligible for Medicare Part A at 65, and you decide to go back to Original Medicare within the first year. (Trial Right)
- You canceled a Medigap plan to join a Medicare Advantage plan (or to switch to a Medicare SELECT policy) for the first time and you want to switch back within the first year. (Trial Right)
- Your Medicare supplement insurance coverage ends through no fault of your own (e.g., the company goes out of business).
- You leave a Medicare Advantage plan because the plan hasn’t followed the rules or it misled you.
Find Plans in your area with your ZIP Code
How else can I get guaranteed-issue rights?
Some states, including California, Oregon, Washington State, and Missouri allow additional situations to qualify you for guaranteed-issue rights.
What are pre-existing conditions?
Pre-existing conditions are health conditions that existed before the start of a Medicare supplement policy. They may limit your coverage, be excluded from coverage, or even prevent you from being approved for a policy. It’s important to note that the exact definition and relevant limitations or exclusions vary with each insurance company. Ak your insurance agent to help you review the official plan documents to understand how a carrier handles pre-existing conditions.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) for plan assistance.
If you qualify for Medicare and don't know where to start, MedicareEnrollment.com, an independent HealthCompare insurance broker, has licensed agents who can help you with your Medicare enrollment options.