Can I Change Medicare Supplement Plans Anytime I Want?

by David Bynon, last updated

Medicare Supplement Insurance does not have a specific enrollment period. With some limitations, you can apply, change, or cancel anytime.

Can I Switch Medicare Supplement Plans Anytime?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know regarding Medicare Supplement Insurance enrollment rules and when a Medicare Supplement carrier can use medical underwriting to determine eligibility.

Key Takeaways

  • You can apply for a new Medicare Supplement plan at any time.
  • You have special protections during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
  • There are several good reasons for switching plans, but you may not be able to if your protection period has expired.
  • If your protection period has expired, your application will go through a medical underwriting approval process.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition(s), your application may be rejected, or the carrier may offer a policy with a 6-month waiting period.
  • It is not necessary to renew your plan annually, but you can cancel at any time.
  • It is not necessary to change plans if you move unless you have a Medicare SELECT plan and move out of the plan’s service area.

When Can You Change Medicare Supplement Plans?

You can apply for a new Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year.

Yep, that’s right, anytime.

Most experts agree that you should get plan rates in your area every year or two to make sure your policy is still competitive. It’s the only way to know, what is the average cost of supplemental insurance for Medicare.

Unlike Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D plans, there isn’t an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Insurance.

This is a common point of confusion. The barrage of TV commercials would have us all believe that Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period each fall applies to all plans.

It doesn’t.

During the fall Open Enrollment Period, you can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan (prescription drug plan).

If you drop your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare, you can apply for Medicare Supplement coverage. However, the rules that apply to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans do not apply to Medicare Supplements.

The important enrollment period for Medicare Supplement customers is the Medigap Open Enrollment Period.

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When is the Medigap Open Enrollment Period?

There is a one-time enrollment period for Medicare Supplements that we each get. It’s an individual period, not a specific time of year. And, it’s important because federal law gives you Medigap protections during this period of time.

Your personal Medicare Supplement enrollment period is a six-month window of time that begins the month you first enroll in Medicare Part B. This is what starts the clock on your guaranteed issue rights.

Can I Change Medicare Supplement Plans With Guaranteed Issue Rights?

The whole purpose of having an individual enrollment period is to make sure that anyone who wants and needs supplemental Medicare insurance can get it. During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, the federal government shields you with certain Medigap protections.

The most important protection is your guaranteed issue right. This right allows you to buy any Medigap plan you want from any insurance company you choose.

You cannot be turned down.

What If My Issue Rights Have Expired?

Once your Medigap protections expire, insurance companies have the right to reject your application for a Medigap policy. But that does not mean your application will be turned down.

It simply means it’s not going to be as easy. Just realize that changing Medigap plans, or getting one for the first time, may require medical underwriting.

There are a number of reasons why insurance companies reject applications. The most common reason is a history of pre-existing conditions. Another reason is lying on the application.

Relax. If you can truthfully answer “no” to all of the health questions on the application, you should be able to get through underwriting with no issues.

What is the Medicare Supplement Free Look Period?

Another important Medigap protection is the free look period. This special protection allows you to switch to a different Medigap plan without getting stuck.

Let’s say you want to switch to a different Medigap plan but there’s a chance you may not like it as much as your current plan. That’s where the free look period protects you.

Here’s an example. Maybe you signed up for a Medicare Supplement Plan N, which covers the following:

  • 100% of Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up
  • 100% of Part B coinsurance
  • 100% of blood (first 3 pints)
  • 100% of Part A hospice care coinsurance
  • Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
  • Medicare Part A deductible
  • 80% of foreign travel health expenses

But then, suppose you discover you might be better off having a plan that covers Part B excess charges, such as Medicare Supplement Plan G. That’s what the free look period is for.

This scenario would allow you to try out Plan G and temporarily keep your Plan N policy.

Reasons You May Want to Switch Medigap Policies

Generally speaking, there are four reasons to switch plans:

  1. You’re paying for coverage you don’t need.
  2. You need more coverage.
  3. You want/need to change insurance companies.
  4. You want a policy with a lower monthly premium.

In most instances, federal law does not give you the right to switch Medigap policies, unless:

  • You have a guaranteed issue right
  • You are eligible under a specific circumstance
  • You’re within your 6-month enrollment period

Just because you no longer have protection under federal law does not mean you can’t switch plans. It simply means your application can be rejected.

NOTE: You are not required to wait a certain length of time after buying your first Medigap insurance policy before you can switch. You can switch to a different policy anytime.

What is the Deadline for Changing Medicare Supplement Plans?

After your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period expires, you’re free to change plans at will. In most cases, though, there’s no reason to switch plans until your insurance company notifies you of that your rates are about to increase.

Just realize that all carriers must increase their rates sooner or later to keep up with inflation and healthcare costs.

Is There a Waiting Period If You Switch Medicare Supplement Plans?

If you have a pre-existing health condition, and you want to switch Medigap plans outside of your open enrollment period, you might be subject to a waiting period. However, the new insurance company must subtract the number of months you had your old policy from the time it make you wait.

Here’s an example. If you had your initial Medigap plan for six months or more, the new company can impose a 6-month waiting period on your pre-existing condition(s). However, they must subtract the number of months you had your policy from the waiting period.

If your current Medigap policy is less than six months old, your new insurance carrier is not required to accept your application for a new policy. If they do, there might be a waiting period.

Do I Have to Renew My Medicare Supplement Every Year?

Unlike Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D plans, the benefits and coverage provided by Medicare Supplements do not change.

Generally speaking, Medicare Supplement policies are guaranteed renewable. As long as you continue paying the monthly premium, the policy will remain in effect. You can cancel your policy at any time.

State-Specific Enrollment Exceptions

Four states have annual Medigap enrollment periods that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage. This includes individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Medicare beneficiaries in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts may change plans at any time without consequence. Beneficiaries in Maine may change plans during one recurring month per year.

If an applicant has pre-existing conditions, some insurance companies in these states may still require waiting periods for coverage.

Medicare Supplement “Birthday Rule” Periods

Some states have a Birthday Rule is a yearly enrollment period that allows Medigap policyholders to switch plans without medical underwriting.

Currently, six states have a birthday rule, including California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Illinois, and Louisiana. Each of the six states has slightly different rules and regulations.

This birthday rule enrollment period occurs immediately before and after a beneficiary’s birthday. You can’t sign up for a Medicare Supplement policy with birthday rule benefits if you don’t already have it. And, you can only switch to a plan with equal or less coverage.

Do I Need To Change Medigap Plans If I Move Out of State?

In most cases, you can keep your current Medigap insurance policy even if you move to a new state. Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, a Medigap policy covers Medicare Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs from any healthcare provider that accepts Medicare, regardless of the state.

However, you do have the option to switch to a different Medigap plan offered by a carrier in your new location. This could be beneficial if the rates in your new state are low.

Just keep in mind that if you don’t have guaranteed-issue rights, your application may get rejected if you have health problems.

If you have a Medicare SELECT plan, you may have a guaranteed-issue right to purchase a different Medigap plan. This happens if you move out of your Medicare SELECT plan’s service area. In this situation, you’ll have a guaranteed-issue right to:

  • Get a plan from your current Medigap insurance company with the same or less coverage than your current plan. Your insurance company may require medical underwriting if you’ve had your Medicare SELECT plan for less than six months.
  • Get any Medigap Plan A, B, C, F, K, or L that is offered in your service area. To get a Plan C or Plan F, you must qualify for Medicare prior to 2020.

Get Professional Help Changing Medigap Plans

As you now know, Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period in the fall applies to your Part D drug plan, not your Medigap policy. You can switch your Medicare Supplement Insurance anytime.

So, if you need to make a switch, or you’re just looking to lower your monthly premiums, call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) and speak with a licensed HealthCompare insurance agent. There’s no obligation.

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