When Can You Change Your Medicare Supplement Plan?
Already enrolled in a Medicare Supplement plan but want to know how and when you can change it? Read our guide to learn more about this process with tips you should be aware of.
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There are certain restrictions when it comes to changing Medicare Supplement plans.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to change your Medicare Supplement plan.
Medigap Open Enrollment is the best time to change plans.
You don't have to wait to change policies if you are buying your very first Medicare Supplement plan.
New rules took effect on January 1st, 2020 that you should be aware of.
There may be times when you want to change your Medicare Supplement plan. Perhaps you want a less expensive policy, or you need more benefits. But you should know that there are certain restrictions on changing Medicare Supplement plans. In this guide, we will highlight key information and the dates you need to know in order to choose the right option for you.
First, What is a Medicare Supplement Plan?
Those who are eligible for Medicare often purchase Medicare Supplement plans to cover the costs that Original Medicare doesn't. A Medicare Supplement plan, sometimes called Medigap insurance, fills the "gaps" that exist in Original Medicare.
Medicare Supplement plans are sold by private insurance companies. They can help pay for things like copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. This makes sense if you're on a budget, and you don't want to be surprised by medical bills that you can't afford.
Why Would You Want to Change Your Medicare Supplement Plan?
You might want to join a Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage plans are popular and offered by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare.
They provide both your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) benefits. Since most Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage, they can help you contain your medication costs.
However, Medicare Advantage plans can't work with Medicare Supplement plans. So if you want a Medicare Advantage plan, you need to cancel your Medicare Supplement plan.
You have an older type of Medicare Supplement plan, and you want a newer one.
Perhaps you're paying for benefits that you no longer need or you want more benefits than what your older Medigap policy provides. Or, you may want a policy that costs less or you simply want to change insurance companies.
You've had your Medicare Supplement policy for more than six months and you have pre-existing conditions.
In this case, the insurance company can't write pre-existing conditions into your new policy, nor can they include wait times, elimination periods, or probationary periods in your new Medicare Supplement insurance plan.
You're moving and won't be in the same state.
You will be able to keep current Medicare Supplement policy no matter where you live if you still have Original Medicare. But, if you want to switch to a new Medicare Supplement plan, check with either your new insurance company or your current one to see if they'll provide you a different policy when you move out of state.
When You Can and Cannot Change Your Medicare Supplement Plan
In most cases, federal law prohibits switching Medicare Supplement insurance plans unless:
You are within your six-month Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7).
You're eligible under a specific circumstance or Medicare Guaranteed Issue Rights.
Keep in mind that if you decide to switch outside of the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, you may have to pay more for your new policy.
The new insurance company may also require you to answer medical questions if you're buying a Medigap plan outside of the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period.
However, you won't have to wait to change policies if you are buying your very first Medicare Supplement policy.
What Steps Should You Take to Change Your Medicare Supplement Plan?
As mentioned above, it's best to change your Medicare Supplement plan during Open Enrollment. If this isn't possible, here's what you need to know:
1. Don't cancel your coverage before you know that you'll be accepted into a new Medigap plan.
2. You should first call the new insurance company with the plan you've selected. Talk with them about how to apply for their Medicare Supplement plan.
3. If they accept your application, then you should contact your current Medigap insurance company and request that they cancel your policy. They will explain what you must do to end your current Medicare Supplement coverage.
4. The application for the new Medicare Supplement Insurance plan will ask you to promise that you'll cancel your first policy.
5. Don't cancel your current Medicare Supplement policy until you're sure that you want to keep the new Medigap policy.
6. You'll have to pay premiums for both your old and new Medigap policies for one month.
What Happens After You Change Your Coverage?
You'll have up to 30 days to decide if you want to keep the new Medicare Supplement policy. This is what's called your "free-look period." The 30-day period begins on the day your new Medigap policy goes into effect.
Where Can You Go To Find and Compare New Medicare Supplement Plans?
You can find and compare the Medigap Policies that are available in your area by going to this Medicare site.
Or you can call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
Or call your State Insurance Department.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Changing Medicare Supplement Plans?
There's a new rule that took effect on January 1st, 2020. After this time, Medicare insurance Supplement plans that are sold can no longer cover Medicare Part B deductibles (your health insurance deductibles).
Also, Medicare Supplement Plan C and Plan F aren't available to people who are new to Medicare.
If you already have either Plan C or the higher deductible Plan F, or you were covered by one of these plans before January 1st, 2020, you can keep them.
And, if you were eligible for Medicare before January 1st, 2020, but you haven't enrolled yet, you still may be able to buy one of these plans.
Jackie Trovato is a healthcare and legal writer with nearly 40 years of experience.