Hundreds of people ask us every year: Can I change my Medicare Supplemental plan anytime? If only it were that easy!
Changing your Medicare plan is not as simple as it might sound. There are two different plan types – Medicare supplements and Medicare Advantage plans. They have different election periods. Consider these before you fill out applications to change Medicare plans.
Changing Your Medicare Supplement
When you first become eligible for Medicare Part B, most states offer you an open enrollment window of 6 months. During this period, you can enroll in a Medicare supplement plan without having to pass health underwriting. This means that the Medigap carrier cannot decline you for coverage due to any health conditions.
In most states, this window occurs only once. Later on, if you wish to shop your insurance for better benefits or more competitive rates, you generally will have to pass medical health underwriting to change. The new insurance carrier could decline your application for coverage if they feel you represent too much medical risk.
Fall Annual Election Period is NOT for Changing Medigap Plans
People are confused by this because each year they see lots of advertising in the fall about the Annual Election Period (AEP). The AEP runs from October 15th to December 7th. This advertising makes them think that they can just wait until the fall if they want to change their Medigap plan without hassle.
However, the AEP only applies to Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans. There is no annual election period that pertains to Medigap.
Some states, however, have special windows that allow you to apply without medical health underwriting. For example, in California and Oregon, have a birthday rule. You have a 30-day window around your birthday each year where you can switch your coverage to another insurance company. To find out if any special rules apply in your state, contact a Boomer Benefits licensed agent about switching your Medicare supplement plan today.
Is There a Deadline for Changing my Medicare Supplement?
The short answer is no. Once you are enrolled in a Medicare supplement plan, you can change that plan any time of year. However, most people only change when there is a motive to do so. Usually, this occurs in the form of a rate increase. Nearly all Medicare supplements will have a rate increase each year on your policy anniversary.
The reason for this is twofold. First, Medicare often increases the Part A deductible and the skilled nursing coinsurance and several other items that your supplement pays for you. So the supplement rates go up to cover this.
Second, there is ordinary healthcare inflation, which means that the cost of everything your Medicare supplement covers is going up all the time.
Here at Boomer Benefits we shop our client’s policies every year to see if there is any chance to gain lower premiums by changing. As long as you can pass the medical underwriting, you can change anytime you like.
Can I Change from Medigap to Medicare Advantage?
You can change from Medigap to Medicare Advantage during the annual fall election period from October 15th to December 7th. This period allows you to enroll in, change, or dis-enroll from Advantage plans. You must stay enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, and you must live in the plan’s service area. There is only 1 health question on the Medicare Advantage plan application about End Stage Renal Disease.
Once you are approved for your Medicare Advantage plan, be sure that you cancel your Medigap coverage since you cannot have both at one time. Keep in mind that late to get back into a Medigap plan later on down the road, you will have to answer health questions and go through medical underwriting.
Changing Your Medicare Advantage Plan
One great thing about Medicare Advantage plans is that they have only one health question to apply. That question is: Do you have ESRD, or End Stage Renal Disease? If you are not in kidney failure or waiting for a kidney transplant, then you can qualify. You can enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan you want, as long as you apply during the proper election period.
When you first become eligible for and enroll in both Medicare Part A & B, you have an Initial Election Period. This period allows you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan up to 3 months before and 3 months after your birth month.
There is also the Annual Election Period (AEP, which occurs from October 15th – December 7th each year. During this time, you can change from original Medicare into a Medicare Advantage plan. You can also change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. Changing Medicare Advantage plans during the AEP is very common because these plans change their benefits each year. If your doctor stops participating in your current plan’s network, then you’ll most likely use the AEP to change to a different Medicare Advantae plan.
You can even dis-enroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and go back to original Medicare with a Part D drug plan. The AEP is the most commonly used election period to make changes to your coverage.
How to Change Medicare Plans During Open Enrollment
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, and you wish to change to a different Medicare Advantage plan, you will do this during the fall open enrollment period. This period runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. You must submit your application within this window. Your new Medicare Advantage plan will begin on January 1st.
The best way to change Medicare plans during open enrollment is to contact a Medicare insurance broker like Boomer Benefits. We can provide you a list of plans in your area. More importantly, we can help you make sure that your applications are coded properly so that your change goes smoothly.
Can I Change from Medicare Advantage to Medigap during open enrollment?
Possibly. You can certainly leave the Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare. However, if you are hoping to enroll in a Medicare supplement, most companies will require you to answer health questions on your application. It’s possible you may not be able to obtain Medigap coverage if you are unable to pass underwriting.
A licensed insurance agent can help you decide how to go about changing Medicare plans so that you don’t end up uninsured if you are declined.
Certain situations can also help you qualify to change your change your Medicare Advantage plan during the year. These are called Special Election Periods, or SEPs. One of the most common SEPs occurs when you move from the county where you currently have Medicare Advantage. Medicare will allow you a SEP to choose a new plan within 2 months of your move date. Since your Medicare Advantage plan won’t be offered in your new area, this give you a guaranteed issue period to get a Medigap plan without health questions.
The Medicare insurance experts at Boomer Benefits can help you determine whether you qualify for any SEP. Just call our office today and ask us to help you change Medicare plan.
When Can I Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage Plan?
You can disenroll during any fall Annual Election Period. There is also a Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period that runs from January 1st to February 14th each year. You can use this window to leave a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare and a Part D drug plan.
Just be aware that if you plan to add a Medigap plan, in most circumstances you will need to answer health questions when you apply for the Medigap plan. The carrier usually gets to decide if they will accept or decline your application.
Changing Your Medicare Part D Drug Plan
The election periods listed above also apply to Medicare Part D. However, Part D plans have no health questions. You can change from one Part D drug plan to another, or cancel your Part D coverage, as long as you do so during a valid election period.
Shopping your Part D drug plan annually is a good idea. Each year the plans have changes in premiums, copays and also their drug formulary. The plan that was the most cost-effective for you this year is not necessarily the most cost-effective for you next year. A good insurance agent will assist you with checking this every single year, as we do at Boomer Benefits.
Confused by all the rules about switching your current Medigap or Medicare Advantage policy? Boomer Benefits can help. Our licensed insurance agents go through hours upon hours of training and certifications each year so that they can maintain their license and be knowledgeable about your options for changing your plan.
Get help changing Medicare plans from a Boomer agent today. Call the number at the top of this page or contact us below.