Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, or Medigap plans, are private insurance products that can help reduce your share of costs with Original Medicare .
Your first chance to sign up for a Medigap plan is during your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
There are other times when you can switch or enroll in plans, but you may not get the lowest rates and can be denied coverage.
If you move or face other special circumstances, the rules for switching plans can change in your favor.
In most states, there are as many as 10 different Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans to choose from. They help cover a range of standard charges, from various deductibles and premiums to coinsurance and copayments.
But if you didn’t sign up for the right plan when you were first eligible — or if you declined Medigap altogether — changing your Medigap coverage can be tricky. But it’s certainly possible, especially if you understand your options. On this page, we’ll answer some important questions about changing Medigap plans, including:
- Can I change my Medigap plan?
- Can I change Medicare Supplement plans anytime? If not, when can I change my Medicare supplement plan?
- Can I buy a Medicare Supplement at any time if I’m switching from Medicare Advantage?
- Can you change Medicare Supplement plans with pre-existing conditions?
For many, finding a Medigap plan with the right benefits is a big part of what makes their Medicare work for them. If you’re looking for a change, here’s what you need to know about switching Medigap plans.
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Technically, you can try to change or switch your Medigap coverage at any time, but there is no guarantee you will receive coverage at all, or at the lowest rate.
When can you switch a Medigap plan?
Unlike other Medicare plans, there isn’t really a specific time of year designated for switching plans. The most cost-effective time to buy your initial Medicare Supplement plan is during the Medigap Open Enrollment period.[i] This period begins the first month that you have Medicare Part B coverage and are 65 or older.
Purchasing plans during this enrollment period will generally give you the lowest price and the most plan choices. Private insurance companies can charge higher prices and even deny coverage if you enroll at a later time.
While there is no specific window of time granted to switch these plans, there are some special circumstances that will allow you to look for a new plan without penalty. After the initial enrollment period, however, your options to switch plans are limited and, if you’re able to buy a plan, it may cost you more.
When can you switch from a Medigap plan to Medicare Advantage?
You cannot purchase a Medigap plan with a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans are designed to help you pay for costs not normally covered by Original Medicare, including:
Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance products that have very specific rules about what can be covered, and it’s illegal for a company to sell you a Medigap plan if you already have Medicare Advantage.[i]
If you have Original Medicare with a Medigap plan and want to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, you do have this option. However, when you join Medicare Advantage, you will have to drop your Medigap plan.
If you change your mind after signing up for Medicare Advantage and want to revert back to Original Medicare with a Medigap plan, the federal government guarantees you a 12-month period to do this after you first switch to Medicare Advantage. When this is the case, you may be able to get your original Medigap plan back if it’s still available or you can purchase a similar plan.
If you signed up for Medicare Advantage when you were first eligible and want to switch to an Original Medicare plan with Medigap, you have this option, too. In these cases, you should have the option of signing up for any Medigap plan, just as you would have during your initial enrollment period.
There are several reasons why you may want to try and switch your Medigap plan after the Initial Enrollment Period. For example:
- Your current plan includes extra coverage you don’t need
- You need additional benefits that are not covered under your current plan
- You want to use a different insurance company
- You want to save money by switching to a plan that costs less
While these are valid reasons for you to want to switch plans, insurance companies don’t have to sell you a plan or guarantee you the lowest rate if you are outside of your initial enrollment period.
Although plans generally don’t have to guarantee you coverage outside of initial enrollment periods, there are some special circumstances when the federal government requires them to give you a do-over.
Guaranteed issue rights, or Medigap protections, are rights you have to purchase any Medigap plan of your choice regardless of pre-existing, past, or present health problems. Some situations that will earn you guaranteed issue rights include:[i]
- You are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that is cancelling its services or you are moving out of the plan’s service area
- You have Original Medicare coverage alongside employer group or union coverage that is ending
- You have a Medicare SELECT plan and are moving out of the plan’s service area
- You have decided to leave your Medicare Advantage plan or Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) within 12 months of joining
- The insurance company that provides your Medigap plan goes out of business or stops offering services
- You leave your current Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan because the insurance company hasn’t followed the plan rules or misled you in some way
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There is no set amount of time that you have to be enrolled in a particular Medigap plan before you can try switching to a different one. It’s most convenient to switch plans within your six-month open enrollment period, but outside of that and special circumstances, there is really no difference when it comes to the timing of signing up for a new plan.
Determining the benefit of a plan switch
If you are considering a switch to a new Medigap plan, be sure to check the coverage and cost of the new plan. Penalties may apply, or you can lose coverage that will require you to pay penalties for new plan types.
For example, Medigap plans sold before 2006 were allowed to include prescription drug coverage, and plans sold before January 2020 could cover your Part B deductible.[i] If you get rid of a Medigap plan that includes these types of coverage, you will not be able to purchase a new one with the same options.
Coverage of pre-existing conditions should be another consideration when you’re thinking about switching Medigap plans. A new Medigap plan may be allowed to make you wait up to six months after you enroll before pre-existing conditions will be covered. The number of months you had your old Medigap policy is generally subtracted from the time you have to wait for your new plan to begin coverage of pre-existing conditions. However, if you are still within your six-month open enrollment period and a new company agrees to offer you a Medigap plan, the new company is not permitted to put conditions on pre-existing conditions including waiting periods.[i]
Can I change my mind about switching Medicare Supplement Insurance plans?
When you sign up for a Medigap plan during the six-month open enrollment period, you can typically change your plan or coverage within that six-month window.
If you decide you want to switch plans after the six-month open enrollment period, you can sign up for a new plan and get a 30-day “free look” period. During this time, you will have to pay the premium for both your old plan and your new plan, but will have some time to decide which you want to keep. In some cases, once you drop your old plan, you may not be able to re-enroll.
When it comes to choosing a Medigap plan, the decision of which option to choose will come down to your personal preference, healthcare needs, and budget. You can research and compare the different insurers and plans available in your area. Another option is to enlist the help of a licensed insurance agent who can answer your questions and find a plan that fits your needs.
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