This is part 2 of Medicare FAQs we're highlighting during this 2017 Medicare open enrollment season. If you missed it, check out part 1: What's the Difference Between Medicare Parts A, B C & D?
Can I switch Medigap plans?
The short answer is yes. You can change your Medicare Supplement ("Medigap") plan any time you want.
However, in most cases, you'll only receive federal guarantees and protections if you switch during the open enrollment period.
Now, Medicare enrollment periods can be confusing because there are so many different types. Medigap has its own one-time open enrollment and bears no relationship to the current open enrollment (October 15 to December 7) for Medicare Parts A/B/D, Medicare Advantage, and so on.
For Medigap plans, open enrollment begins the first day of the month in which you are both age 65 (or older) and enrolled in Medicare Part B, and ends six months later. For example, if you'll be 65 on May 10, 2018 and enrolled in Medicare Part B, your Medigap open enrollment will begin June 1, 2018 and go for six months.
There are a few exceptions, for example:
- You have a guaranteed issue right.
- Your state has more generous requirements (than federal).
- You have a Medicare Select plan and you move out of the service area.
If you switch plans other than above, then the new insurer will typically require medical underwriting and:
- Can temporarily deny coverage for any new benefits beyond what's covered in your current policy, but they can only do so for six months.
- Can require a higher premium.
- Can refuse to sell you a policy.
And if you decide to switch Medigap policies, be sure you don't cancel your existing policy until you've received the replacement policy (and decided to keep it).
Why might I want to switch Medigap plans?
This typically boils down to any of four reasons:
- You're paying for benefits you don't need.
- You need more or better benefits now than in the past.
- Your current Medigap policy has the right benefits, but you want to change your insurance company.
- Your current Medigap policy has the right benefits, but you want to find a policy that's less expensive.