Can I Change My Medicare Supplement Plan Anytime?
Learn about reasons for switching Medigap plans, the guaranteed issue and free look periods, and state-specific open enrollment periods.
You can choose a Medicare Supplement plan the first time you become eligible for Medicare during the six-month period following your 65th birthday. A Medigap plan can help to cover the copays, coinsurance, and Part B deductible that Original Medicare doesn’t pay. Once you choose a Medigap plan, it is possible to change it as long as you understand and follow the rules. The rules for changing Medicare Supplement insurance plans differ from those that control changes to other Medicare parts. Here are some rules you need to know if you want to change your Medicare Supplement plan.
4 Reasons You May Want to Switch Medigap Policies
The following four reasons might make you want to change your Medicare Supplement plan:
1. You’re paying for benefits that you’ve found you don’t need.
2. Your current plan doesn’t provide all the benefits you need.
3. You would like to change your insurance company.
4. You are looking for more affordable Medigap premiums.
If you have a Medigap plan with fewer benefits than you need, or your current plan doesn’t provide all the benefits you need, both are good reasons to change your Medicare Supplement plan. Changing plans and insurance companies might also help you to find a more affordable plan.
The Medicare Supplement “Free Look” Period
You will have a 30-day free look period when you switch Medigap plans. During this period, your old plan can continue for the first 30 days after your new plan begins. During that 30 days, you can switch back to your old plan and cancel your new one if you decide you prefer your old plan without penalty.
However, you will be required to pay the premiums for both plans for the one-month free look period. In addition, if you do not decide to switch back until after the free look period is over, you will be required to reapply for your old plan and undergo medical underwriting before you are approved for health coverage under your old plan.
It is also important to understand what might happen if you have an older plan that is no longer offered. For example, if you have Medicare Part F and decide to try a different plan, you won’t be able to return to your old plan. By contrast, if you remain with your older plan, you are grandfathered in and can continue with your plan as long as you do not leave it.
When you first become eligible for the federal Medicare program by turning 65, you will have a special Medigap enrollment period lasting for six months, during which you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. During your initial enrollment, you must first enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B since Medigap plans supplement Original Medicare.
During the special enrollment period, you have guaranteed issue rights. This means that you can’t be charged more for your plan based on pre-existing conditions than healthy people of the same age. Instead, your insurance company must issue a policy to you and cannot charge you more based on your medical conditions or age.
In addition to the initial special enrollment period, you might also have guaranteed issue rights when changing Medicare Supplement plans if the insurance company for your Medicare Select current plan has left your plan’s service area or if you relocate away from it.
Other events that could trigger a special enrollment period with guaranteed issue rights include the following:
- You have Medicare Parts A and B and supplemental coverage ending through your employer’s group health plan.
- Your current coverage ended through no fault of your own.
- Your insurance company went bankrupt.
- Your insurance company broke the law or misled you.
- You decided to switch plans to Original Medicare and a Medigap plan after initially enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan within a year.
In any of these situations, you will have guaranteed issue rights, during which private insurance companies cannot deny you based on your age or health conditions.
Open Enrollment Period (State Specific)
While there is an annual enrollment period during which you can change plans in every state, some states have special rules that allow Medigap policyholders to change their Medicare Supplement insurance plan at specific times without undergoing medical underwriting. In addition, a few states have anniversary guaranteed-issue rules, and others have birthday rules that allow plan changes.
The following two states have annual guaranteed issue rules for Medigap policy changes:
- Maine – Allows open enrollment each year during June
- Missouri – Allows policyholders to change from the same plan to another plan providing the same benefits starting 30 days before the anniversary of the annual policy until 30 days after the anniversary
The following states allow changes to a new policy according to birthday rules:
- California – Allows Medigap plan changes during an open enrollment period lasting from 45 days before the beneficiary’s birthday to 45 days after it
- Idaho – Has a 63-day open enrollment period with guaranteed issue rights starting on the beneficiary’s birthday
- Illinois – Beneficiaries in a specified age range have a 45-day window open enrollment period around their birthday
- Nevada – Allows beneficiaries to enroll in new plans during a 61-day open enrollment period around their birthdays
- Oregon – Provides a 31-day Medigap open enrollment period with guaranteed issue rights around the beneficiary’s birthday
The following states allow people to enroll in new Medigap insurance plans without medical underwriting year-round:
- New York
Vermont beneficiaries can also benefit from year-round enrollment without underwriting for policies issued by United Healthcare or Mutual of Omaha.
If you want to switch Medigap plans, a licensed insurance agent can help you navigate the complex rules and find a Medicare Supplement plan that meets your Medicare coverage needs.