Compare plans today.


CMS Announces Special Enrollment Period for People Affected by Natural Disasters

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published April 26, 2021 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is giving Medicare beneficiaries a special enrollment period (SEP) to make changes to their Medicare plans if a weather-related emergency or major disaster impacted their ability to do so during another qualifying election period.

This means that if you have a Medicare Advantage plan and are eligible for the SEP, you make changes to your plan or enroll in a new plan through Dec. 31 by visiting

If you have a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy or would like to enroll in one, call a licensed agent at 1-800-995-4219 to discuss your plan options.

Medicare Enrollment in 2017

Medicare beneficiaries living in counties impacted by wildfires in California or Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria or Nate may be eligible for a special Medicare enrollment period extending through Dec. 31, after Fall Open Enrollment ends on Dec. 7.

The CMS considers people “affected” by a weather-related emergency and eligible for a special enrollment period if they live in an area declared an emergency or major disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The special enrollment period is extended to beneficiaries who lived in one of the affected areas at the time of the natural disaster (even if they no longer do), and to people who don’t live in an affected area but rely on family members or friends who live in an affected area for help making healthcare decisions.

Proof of Residence in a Disaster Area

Providers will likely ask you (or your friend or family member who helps with healthcare decisions) for proof of residence in an affected area, such as a driver’s license or a utility bill. If you can’t provide proof, you can still get access to the special enrollment period by attesting to your residence, which insurance companies must accept as proof. 

Beneficiaries who sign up for a Medicare plan during the special enrollment period (through Dec. 31) will have coverage beginning on Jan. 1. If you have not received your membership ID card as of Jan. 1, contact your insurance provider and ask how to access your benefits before your card arrives.

Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Insurance Enrollment

Eligible beneficiaries can still enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan before the end of the Special Enrollment Period on Dec. 31.

To learn more about your Medicare Supplement Insurance plan options and to enroll in a policy, call to speak with a licensed insurance agent.


Compare Medicare Supplement plans in your area.

Find a plan
Or call 1-800-995-4219 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.


Christian Worstell is a health care and policy writer for He has written hundreds of articles helping people better understand their Medicare coverage options.

Resource Center

Email newsletter

Get a Free Medicare Guide!

Enter your email address and get a free guide to Medicare and Medicare Supplement Insurance, as well as important Medicare news and tips. We promise to never send you spam – just helpful content!

By clicking "Get your guide" you are agreeing to receive emails from

We've been helping people find their perfect Medicare plan for over 11 years.

Ready to find your plan?

Or chat about my options with an agent