Residents of Federal Disaster Areas Get Second Chance for Medicare Enrollment

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While Medicare open enrollment for the 2021 plan year officially closed in December, some beneficiaries may still be eligible. Ensurem CEO Dave Rich explains how.

Medicare special enrollment periods are available to residents of FEMA-declared disaster areas.

Given the disruption and challenges of 2020, this opportunity may be of interest to Medicare-eligible individuals who for one reason or another did not enroll in Medicare or change their plans during the annual enrollment period and would like to do so now.

If you’re eligible for Medicare, you can enroll and choose a plan any time during the three months before and after the month you turn 65. After that, you usually only have one chance a year: the annual election period (AEP). Also referred to as Medicare open enrollment, AEP runs yearly from October 15 to December 7. Dave Rich, CEO of Ensurem, a Florida-based insurance technology and product distribution firm, says, “In most cases, if you wanted to enroll or change plans for 2021 and didn’t get it done by December 7, you’re out of luck.(1) Or maybe not, depending on where you live.” Medicare-eligible individuals residing in certain states could qualify for special enrollment periods.

Medicare special enrollment periods (SEPs), Rich explains, are available to residents of Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disaster areas. While the special enrollment periods apply only to residents of these areas, a significant number of seniors may nonetheless be eligible.

This SEP gives individuals the opportunity to enroll in, disenroll from, or switch Medicare health or prescription drug plans and is open to those who:

  • live (or lived at the start of the incident period,) in an area for which FEMA has declared an emergency or a major disaster (fire, flood, hurricane, etc.); and
  • had another Medicare enrollment period at the time of the incident period (such as AEP, October 15-December 7); and
  • did not enroll or make a change during that enrollment period.(2)

The special enrollment opportunity, notes Rich, runs for four full calendar months after the declaration of emergency. This means, residents of an area declared a disaster zone by FEMA as long ago as October will still be eligible to enroll or make a change in their Medicare plans for 2021 up until February, and in some cases, even March.

“Given the disruption and challenges of 2020,” he says, “this opportunity may be of interest to Medicare-eligible individuals who for one reason or another did not enroll in Medicare or change their plans during the annual enrollment period and would like to do so now.”

States containing FEMA-declared disaster areas in which SEPs may be available from January to March, for example, include Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Texas and Wyoming.(3)

Medicare-eligible individuals residing in these states and wishing to know if their particular county is part of a FEMA-declared disaster area can contact Medicare or FEMA directly. For those looking for quicker answers, there is an alternative:

“As specialists in Medicare insurance, we are aware how confusing it is to navigate the Medicare landscape, especially with these FEMA exceptions which go unnoticed by most beneficiaries. At Ensurem, we are on top of all Medicare news, changes, and processes,” says Rich.

Ensurem is up to date on this information and willing and ready to verify anyone’s eligibility for this special enrollment period. They can be reached from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET at (800) 729-5109.

About Ensurem:
Ensurem, headquartered in Clearwater, FL, is a leading technology and product distribution company serving carriers and consumers within the massive U.S. senior market. The company provides end-to-end solutions for carriers, including product development, digital marketing and consumer-centric front ends and back end. For more information, please visit

1.    “Medicare Enrollment Periods: When to Sign Up.” Medicare,
2.    Guidance Portal,
3.    “Declared Disasters.” Declared Disasters |,

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Karla Jo Helms

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