If your Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, plan doesn’t meet your needs, you can apply to change to any of the other nine plans at any time. The only catch is it must be available in your area. The process is fairly straightforward, but there are issues you should consider.
The most comprehensive listing of different Medigap plans sold in your area is at Medicare’s online Medigap Policy Search. When you’ve identified a Medigap policy that you want to switch to, go ahead and apply for it, but don’t immediately drop your old plan. Your acceptance for the new coverage is guaranteed if you’re still in your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, the six-month period that begins the month you first became eligible to join Medicare. If you’re beyond this period, acceptance depends on your health and medical history.
If your OEP has expired, you’ll be asked some medical questions on your application. The insurance company will also contact your physician and the Medical Information Bureau to learn more about your health and medical history. This process, called medical underwriting, helps the insurance company determine how much risk it assumes if it approves your application. Based on that risk, it may require you to pay a higher premium for the coverage than was advertised. It may also reject the application.
Situations Beyond Your Control
Exceptions to underwriting apply only if you’re forced to change your coverage after the expiration of your OEP for reasons beyond your control. For example, your policy may be cancelled because the insurance company goes bankrupt, loses its contract with Medicare, or decides to discontinue that plan in your area. In such cases, you have a guaranteed right to enroll in a Medigap Plan A, B, C, F, K or L provided you apply within 63 days of your old plan’s expiration.
The Free Look
You have a 30-day period to evaluate any new coverage. If it turns out the new policy doesn’t meet up with your expectations, simply cancel it and keep the old one. If you decide to stay with the new plan, notify the old carrier of the cancellation. That month you will end up paying premiums to both.
If you have a pre-existing condition, you may have to wait six months before it is covered in any new Medigap policy.
- Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Minnesota have very different structures and rules for Medigap policies. Likewise, other states may have different rules regarding different aspects of Medigap policies.