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Medicare 101

Do I need Medicare to buy a Medigap policy?

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published October 24, 2023 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

You need to have Original Medicare coverage (Part A and Part B) to buy a Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) policy. If you are not enrolled in Medicare or Medigap and want this coverage, you should follow this 2-step process:

  1. Enroll in Original Medicare
  2. Apply for Medicare Supplement insurance

How to enroll in Medicare health insurance

The first step toward getting Medigap health insurance benefits is to enroll in Original Medicare. To qualify for Original Medicare, you must be at least 65 years old and a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States. If you have a qualifying disability, you may be eligible for coverage before you turn 65.

Some people are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically. If you are automatically enrolled, you will receive a Medicare card in the mail about 3 months before your 65th birthday. Part A is standard coverage and Part B is optional coverage. Part A is usually free, but Part B comes with an additional premium you have to pay each month. You will be able to opt in or out of Part B coverage. To qualify for a Medigap policy, you must enroll in both Part A and Part B.

If you are not automatically enrolled in Medicare, you should enroll during the enrollment period that fits your requirements. There are 3 enrollment windows for Medicare Part A and Part B:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP)

Apply for Medicare Supplement insurance

After you enroll in Original Medicare, you can proceed to apply for a Medigap policy.

Medicare Supplement insurance has its own eligibility rules that differ slightly from the Medicare program. To qualify for Medigap, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare and be 65 or older, or have a qualifying disability. If you have a qualifying disability, you may be eligible for coverage before you turn 65.

However, Medigap protection for those under the age of 65 is not federally protected. Each state’s insurance department dictates the rules governing Medicare beneficiaries under the age of 65.

When you qualify for Medigap coverage, you should find a company and apply for a policy during your Medicare Supplement open enrollment period. During your open enrollment period, insurance companies are not allowed to deny you a policy or increase your premiums due to pre-existing health conditions.

You can buy a policy outside of your Medigap open enrollment period, but you should try to buy it during this period, if possible. Explore more information about buying a Medigap policy before and after the open enrollment period.

Once you have the Original Medicare coverage you need, you can buy the Medigap plan that best fits your anticipated health care costs.

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