When Can I Change My Medicare Supplement Plan?
Unlike Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D, there isn’t an Annual Election Period (open enrollment) for Medicare supplements. That’s good news.
The bad news is that switching Medicare supplements – to a different carrier for a better rate or to a different plan for better coverage – often requires you to go through medical underwriting for approval. However, you can make these changes any time of year. There is no specific Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period.
This is a common point of confusion because many people think that Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP) applies to all plans. During AEP, people with an Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan (prescriptions) can switch plans, because these plans do not require medical underwriting for approval.
AEP does not apply to supplemental Medicare insurance, also known as Medigap. These plans have their own set of rules. In this article, we’ll answer these top questions about Medicare Supplement enrollment:
In general, you can change your Medicare Supplement plans anytime. However, the best time to enroll in or make changes to your Medicare Supplement insurance coverage is during your personal Open Enrollment Period, which is the six-month period that starts when you are 65 or older and are enrolled in Medicare Part B. Learn more about when you can change plans in this article.
Unlike Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans, Medicare Supplements do not have an annual enrollment period. However, you do have an Individual Enrollment Period (IEP), which is the six-month period that starts when you are 65 or older and are enrolled in Medicare Part B. To learn more about your IEP and the rights it grants you, check out this important article.
One of the best features of Medicare supplement insurance is that you can apply for a plan anytime. To enroll, you must first be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. However, an insurance carrier doesn't have to accept your application unless you have guaranteed-issue rights. This is also true if you want to change Medicare supplements to get a better rate or different coverage. Learn more about enrollment rules on this page.
Medicare Supplements Give You a One-Time Open Enrollment Period
The federal government coined the term Medigap at the same time Medicare was enacted into law in 1965. However, it did not make Medigap part of the Medicare system. Medigap is private indemnity insurance that’s regulated at the state level. The federal government only regulates what coverage is allowed.
Medigap plans are more like life insurance than traditional health insurance policies. They pay a predictable amount on different coverages. This is just one of the reasons that they are so popular; they are predictable. But, getting a policy is not always guaranteed, as it is with Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D.
When you turn age 65, or first enroll in Medicare Part B (whichever comes later), you have a one-time-only period to buy any Medigap plan you want without question. This a six-month period of time, during which you have a guaranteed issue right. These rights allow you to choose your supplement, and the company you want to buy it from, without fear of being rejected based on your health or age.
Also See: Medicare Supplement Guaranteed Issue
After your six-month open enrollment period has ended, all bets are off. You can still apply for coverage, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be accepted. That’s because Medigap insurance companies have the right to ask you health questions on their application, just like you would answer when applying for life insurance. To get coverage, you must be able to pass the carrier’s medical underwriting process.
What If My Medicare Supplement Guaranteed Issue Period Over?
If your one-time open enrollment period is over you can apply for a plan, or switch plans, at any time of year. It’s only Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans that restrict changes to the Fall Annual Election Period. Medicare supplement plans are different.
Just realize that changing Medigap plans, or getting one for the first time, may require underwriting. Most people think about shopping rates for about a month or so before their policy anniversary each year. This is typically when your insurance carrier will notify you if they are taking a rate increase and how much it will be, so it’s a good time to call your agent to shop for better rates.
If your agent finds a significantly better rate, ask them to walk you through the carrier’s health questions to see if you are likely to pass medical underwriting. Basically, if you can truthfully answer no to all of the questions, you should be able to get through underwriting with no issues.
To put it succinctly, if you’re in good health and remain in good health you can take advantage of better rates when they come available. If your health declines, take stock in knowing your policy cannot be canceled.
Is there a deadline for changing Medicare supplement plans?
No. After your six-month open enrollment period expires, you’re free to change plans at will. In most cases, though, there’s no reason to switch plans or carriers until you’re notified of a rate increase and want to shop for a lower rate. Just realize that all carriers must increase their rates sooner or later to keep up with inflation and healthcare costs.
Exceptions in California, Oregon, Washington, and Missouri
California, Oregon, Washington, and Missouri have rules that, in some circumstances, allow you to change plans without medical underwriting. In these states, you can change plans once a year, without underwriting, if you are switching to an equal or lesser plan. Call your agent for details if you live in one of these states or you’re planning to move.
Get Professional Help Changing Your Medigap Plans
As you now know, Medicare’s Annual Election Period in the fall is for your Part D drug plan changes. AEP is also for you if you plan to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare. However, if you’re coming back, it isn’t guaranteed that you will be approved for Medigap coverage.
Do you want to know if you can switch Medicare supplement plans and lower your monthly premiums? Call 1-855-266-4865 and let a HealthPlanOne agent assist you. There’s no obligation. Ask for your free rate plan analysis from all of the top carriers in your state.