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Understand Coverage

What are Medicare Supplements?

Medicare supplement insurance is also called “Medigap” or “MedSupp.” It is private insurance designed to fill gaps in Medicare coverage and is sold by many companies. It is not sold by the government. Those eligible for employer-provided insurance or Medicaid assisted programs usually do not need Medicare Supplement insurance. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan Medicare supplement policies don’t pay benefits and aren’t needed.  You can view all Medicare Supplements offered in Iowa in our Iowa Medicare Supplement & Premium Comparison Guide.

When can I buy a Medicare Supplement?

Every new Medicare recipient who is age 65 or older has a guaranteed right to buy a Medicare supplement policy during a six-month “open enrollment.” A company cannot reject you for any policy it sells, and it cannot charge you more than anyone else your age. Your open enrollment period starts when you are age 65 or older and enroll in Medicare Part B for the first time. It ends 6 months later. If you apply for a policy after the open enrollment period, some companies may refuse coverage because of health reasons. If you have Medicare Part B coverage because of Medicare disability or end-stage renal disease, you do not get open enrollment before age 65. However, you will be eligible for an open enrollment period when you become 65.

Under certain circumstances you may also be able to purchase a policy with a guaranteed right at other times.  See our Iowa Medicare Supplement and Premium Comparison Guide for additional details. 

Medicare pays most of the health care costs for those eligible, but significant gaps can leave large bills to pay. Medicare Supplements are plans from private insurance companies that 

Learn the answers to our most frequently asked questions about Medicare Supplement Insurance.

I am turning 65 and going on Medicare. What do I need to know about Medicare supplement insurance?

Buying Medicare supplement insurance is a way to protect yourself from some of the costs not covered by Medicare. It is also called “Medigap” or “Med Supp” insurance. There are 10 standardized Medicare supplement plans identified by the letters "A" through "N." Plans F and G are also available as a high deductible plans. Plans C and F are only available to individuals eligible for Medicare prior to January 1, 2020.

The benefits in each plan are identical from company to company. Review our Iowa Medicare Supplement & Premium Comparison guide for more information.

If you have an employer-sponsored retiree health plan or receive Medicaid benefits you may not need a Medicare supplement.  Review our SHIIP factsheet, Getting Ready to Retire, for more information. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, a Medicare Supplement will not pay benefits. If you have any questions, contact SHIIP at (800) 351-4664 (TTY 800-735-2942).

Can those who have Medicare because of disability buy a Medicare supplement plan?

A limited number of companies offer Medicare supplement insurance to those with disabilities. SHIIP-SMP’s Iowa Medicare Supplement & Premium Comparison Guide linked below lists those companies. It is important to note that only a few plans are guarantee issued. Policies that are guarantee issue will accept those with Medicare due to disability no matter what health conditions may exist. The waiting periods for pre-existing conditions should also be checked. Review the premium section of our Iowa Medicare Supplement & Premium Comparison Guide for more information.