Today we are going to discuss one of the most common questions I receive:
“When can I change my supplement plan?”
To answer this question we must first gain a basic understanding of when the best time to buy a Medicare Supplement plan is, and why.
When is the best time to buy a Medicare Supplement?
The best time to sign up for a supplement is always during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. Why? Because during this period you are automatically accepted into a Medigap plan, regardless of your current health or previous medical complications. This is commonly referred to as guaranteed-issue rights.
This may either be the 6 month period that starts when you are 65 and enrolled in Part B, or possibly later if you delay enrollment. For many of you this period will be triggered in the latter scenario, if you are postponing retirement past 65 and will remain covered by your group health plan. If this is your case, you will have 6 months beginning from the last do you work or the last day of coverage under your employer plan, whichever comes first.
What if I didn’t sign up for a Medicare Supplement when I was first eligible?
If you didn’t sign up for any Medigap plan during your Open Enrollment Period, you may still sign up for one now. However, if you are in a state like Pennsylvania, you will have to go through “medical underwriting”. This means you will be asked questions about your current and past health to determine your acceptance. Assuming you are relatively healthy and don’t have any major complications you will be accepted.
When can I sign up for a supplement?
Unlike Medicare Advantage plans which typically only allow you to enroll once a year during the Annual Enrollment period (AEP), Medigap supplements can be signed up for year-round.
When and how can I change my supplement plan?
Paying too much in premiums for your current plan and want to switch to another insurance carrier? Good news: you can switch at any time. Again — you will have to go through medical underwriting. However, if for whatever reason you are denied, have no fear — you will not lose your current coverage. Just remember that when you apply for a switch to never leave your current Medigap plan. If/when you are accepted, you will simply cancel your old plan and accept coverage for the new plan.
I have a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to a Supplement — HOW?
I have come accross many people who initially joined a MA plan at 65, but as they aged they decided they want to enroll in a Medigap plan for more complete coverage. The question is how does this work? Are there any special enrollment periods given here? Sadly the answer is no.
If you fall into this category you will have to wait to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan at either of the following times:
- The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) between January 1st and March 3rd.
- The Annual Enrollment period (AEP) between October 15th and December 7th.
Once you are disenrolled you will go back to having just Original Medicare (Part A & B), and you can now apply for a Medigap supplement plan. You will have to pass Medical Underwriting and therefore must deliberate this matter carefully before leaving your MA plan. If you are considering this I highly recommend giving me a call first to discuss.
Are there any other times I can switch to Medigap with guaranteed-issue rights?
Luckily there are indeed some exceptions to medical underwriting. The following are two of the most common that come up:
- You are still in the first year of enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, and you signed up immediately when joining Medicare. If you aren’t happy with your coverage and want to join a Medigap plan you will have a special enrollment period where you must be accepted.
- You moved outside of your Medicare Advantage’s service area. In this case, you can opt-out of Medicare Advantage and go back to Original Medicare. This will give you a short period where you can sign up for a Supplement plan and be guaranteed acceptance.
If you are considering switching plans, reach out to me so we can discuss your particular situation. Until I hear from you all the relevant details, it might make sense to switch immediately, stay put till a later date, or keep your coverage and not move at all. There are simploy too many variables that could result in a variety of approaches.
If you haven’t considered switching but are curious to find out if this could be good for you — give me a call. You might be shocked to hear that you are overpaying by upwards of 40% of the most competitive rate.
In a later blog post we will address the reason’s why one should switch and how often I would advise. Stay tuned.