Whether you're planning ahead for retirement or are already well into your golden years, health care costs can be difficult to predict, and Medicare may not cover everything. Purchasing Medicare Supplement insurance to prepare for these costs can provide peace of mind in case your financial situation changes quickly.
However, while some supplemental plans may cover your health care costs initially, you might realize that you want different coverage later on due to a lifestyle change or unforeseen events. This may lead you to wonder, "When can I change my Medicare Supplement insurance plan?" That's why it's important to know about the different kinds of Medicare Supplement insurance policies to determine which one is best for your needs.
Why Switch Medicare Supplement Plans?
Medicare Supplement insurance, also known as Medigap, is a common add-on to Original Medicare, and there are a variety of options to choose from. You may want to switch because you realize you want a different mix of benefits — for example, you want to travel internationally but have a Medigap Plan B, which doesn't include coverage for foreign travel, so you'd like to switch to a Plan F, which does.
You also may have found a similar Medigap plan in your area for a lower premium or a plan with another coverage option that you might need. Whatever the reason, you can rest assured that it's possible to change your Medicare Supplement insurance plan.
When Can I Change My Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan?
The easiest time to change your plan is during Medicare open enrollment, which is the six-month period after you turn 65 and first sign up for Medicare Part B. During this time, you can freely switch between Medigap plans.
Insurance companies don't screen applicants based on health during this period, and you're guaranteed to qualify for another plan even if you have preexisting health conditions. This six-month span can give you time to research your options and make the switch if you find a plan that better fits your needs.
What Happens After Medicare Open Enrollment?
Once the deadline for Medicare open enrollment has passed, you can switch plans, but it takes a bit more effort. Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, which only allow you to change plans during a few months of the year, you do have the option to change Medigap plans whenever you want.
The problem is that, in most states, insurance companies aren't required to sell you Medigap insurance after the open enrollment period. If you have preexisting health conditions, an insurance company may charge you a higher premium or decide not to sell you a Medigap plan altogether.
The younger and healthier you are when you try to make a change, the more likely it is that you qualify for a new Medigap insurance plan. That's why planning ahead is so crucial when it comes to making this decision.
What Are Guaranteed Issue Events?
There are some situations where you could be eligible to sign up for a new Medigap plan outside of open enrollment — however, these are limited and somewhat rare. Situations where you may be allowed to switch after the initial six-month period are known as guaranteed issue events and can occur through a few scenarios, including:
- The insurance company offering your current plan goes bankrupt or ends your coverage for some other reason outside of your control.
- You switch to a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time but then decide to switch back to Medigap insurance within one year.
- You drop your Medigap plan because the provider isn't following the rules or misguided you.
- You have a Medicare Advantage plan and your insurance company stops offering coverage in your area or you move out of the coverage area.
It's best to take the time leading up to and during open enrollment to properly research your options and find a good fit the first time around. If you change your mind or require additional coverage after the deadline for Medicare open enrollment, change plans as soon as you can to increase your chances of qualifying.
For more information on how to switch plans, consider reaching out to a trained insurance specialist. They can help you understand the rules and compare your available options.