Everything You Need to Know about Changing Medicare Supplement Plans

Everything You Need to Know about Changing Medicare Supplement Plans
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Everything You Need to Know about Changing Medicare Supplement Plans

Everything You Need to Know about Changing Medicare Supplement Plans
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Learn more about how you can change Medicare Supplement Plans in 2021.

Over time, many seniors change Medicare Supplement Plans and health insurance providers. There are a few reasons for this: 

  1. They need more health care benefits than their current plan offers

  2. They want a Medicare Supplement policy that is less expensive 

  3. They are paying for benefits they no longer need 

  4. They would like to change insurance companies 

Although it’s fairly easy to change Medicare Supplement Plans, there are a few important things you should be aware of. 

By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will know when the best time is to change Medicare Supplement Plans and how to avoid paying higher premiums.

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Quick Recap: What Are Medicare Supplement Plans? 

A Medicare Supplement Plan (also known as Medigap plans) is health insurance that you can buy from private companies. 

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans are popular amongst seniors because they help pay for the remaining out-of-pocket costs that Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover. 

Key Terms You Need to Know: 

Out-of-pocket costs: This term refers to the expenses that are not covered by Medicare and that you must pay for yourself. For example, a fee for visiting an audiologist to get a hearing aid fitted.

Pre-existing conditions: In the context of medical insurance, this refers to an illness or injury a person had before enrolling in health coverage. For example, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Medical underwriting: This is a process that an insurance company can use to decide (based on your medical history) whether to accept your health insurance application. This process will also determine how much the insurance company will charge you for health insurance. 

There are ten standardized Medicare Supplement Plans that you can choose from. Each plan can be identified by a letter: A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N.

To find out more about how a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan can help you manage your  health care expenses, take a look at this article.   

Can I Change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans Anytime?

Although you can join or change Medicare Supplement Plans at any time, the best time to do so is during the Open Enrollment Period (also known as the Medigap Open Enrollment Period).

This is because you are likely to get more affordable premiums and you will not have to answer any health questions in a process called “medical underwriting.”

During this process, a licensed insurance agent will evaluate your health to set the price of your premium and decide what coverage to offer you. 

Some people who are considered high-risk during the medical underwriting process may be denied medical insurance based on pre-existing health conditions. 

Here’s What You Need to Know about the Open Enrollment Period: 

You must be 65 or older for the Open Enrollment Period to begin. 

In general, this window happens once in your life (unless you collect Social Security Income) and will last for six months.

This six-month window begins on the first day of the month that your Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) is effective. This date is different for everyone and depends on the month that you sign up. 

For more information, read our Guide to Medicare Enrollment Period 2021.

During the six-month Open Enrollment Period, you can also change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans if you are not satisfied with the one that you are enrolled in. 

Similarly, if you change plans during this time insurance companies cannot charge you higher premiums or reject your application due to your medical history. 

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What If I Missed the Open Enrollment Period?

There are some circumstances that could mean you miss the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. 

For example, if you received health insurance through your employer and joined Medicare after turning 65. 

If you enroll outside of the Open Enrollment Period, you will be at risk of medical underwriting. 

Remember, this could mean that your premiums might be higher due to a pre-existing health condition or you could be denied medical insurance entirely. 

However, there are certain circumstances where you have guaranteed issue rights.

This refers to situations when an insurance company cannot refuse to sell you a policy and must let you change Medicare Supplement Plans.

The other benefit of having guaranteed issue rights is that an insurance company can’t charge you a higher premium due to pre-existing health issues. 

The following scenarios outline when you would have guaranteed issue rights: 

  • You are about to lose employer group health benefits that cover your medical expenses after your federal Medicare program insurance kicks in. 

  • The licensed health insurance agency you bought your Medicare Supplemental Insurance from goes bankrupt and you lose your coverage. 

  • You cancel your Medicare Advantage Plan (also known as Medicare Part C) or leave a Supplement Plan because the insurance company did not follow Medicare-approved rules or misled you. 

  • You have both Medicare and a Medicare SELECT policy and you are moving out of the Medicare SELECT policy’s coverage area. 

  • The Medicare Part C plan you are enrolled in is going to stop providing healthcare coverage in your area, or you move out of the plan’s service region. 

  • You are cancelling a Medicare Advantage Plan within 12 months of joining it. This only applies if it was the plan you joined first after becoming eligible for Medicare at 65.

If you are 65 or older, you have guaranteed issue rights for 63 days when any of the health coverage mentioned above ends. 

It’s also important to note that you can generally only choose Medicare Supplement Plan A, B, C, D, F, G, K, or L when you have guaranteed issue rights. 

Medicare Advantage Plan vs Medicare SELECT: 

Medicare Advantage: Also known as Medicare Part C, this is an alternative to Original Medicare. This means that if you join one of these policies, you will get most of your Part A and B cover through the Advantage Plan, not Medicare.

Medicare Part C Plans are often “bundled,” which means it includes Part A, B and D for prescription drug coverage. Most plans offer extra benefits that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as dental and optometry, for example. 

Medicare SELECT: This is a type of Medicare Supplement Plan that requires you to use hospitals and doctors within its network (except in an emergency) to qualify for full health insurance benefits. 

If you do not use a Medicare SELECT hospital or doctor for non-emergencies, you will have to pay some or all of what Medicare doesn’t cover. 

Trying to make sense of guaranteed issue rights and how they could apply to you can be challenging. 

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, speak to one of PolicyScout’s friendly Medicare consultants today.  

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What Is the Free Look Period? 

Medicare Supplement Plans also allow you to have a 30-day free look period. 

This means that you will be allowed to keep your old Medicare Supplement Plan for 30 days after your new one begins. 

If you decide that you prefer your old Medicare Supplement Plan, you can switch back and cancel the new one. However, there are a few things to take note of. 

During the free look period, you will have to pay premiums for both of the Medicare Supplement Plans for one month. 

If you decide you want to go back to your old plan after the free look period, you will have to reapply for it and go through medical underwriting again. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • A Medicare Supplement Plan is health insurance that you can buy from private companies. 
  • You can join or change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans at any time, but the best time to do so is during the Open Enrollment Period.
  • This is because you are likely to get more affordable premiums and you will not have to go through “medical underwriting”.
  • This involves answering health questions so that an insurance company can set the price of your premium and decide what coverage to offer you. 
  • If you missed the Open Enrollment Period, you may be at risk of medical underwriting. However, some circumstances might grant you guaranteed issue rights.
  • In these situations, licensed insurance agents can’t refuse to sell you a policy and must let you change Medicare Supplement Plans.
  • A 30-day free look period is also available with Medicare Supplement Plans. 
  • This allows you to keep your old Supplement Plan for 30 days after your new one begins. If you prefer your old plan, you can switch back and cancel the new one. 

Where Do I Learn More about Changing Medicare Supplement Plans? 

At PolicyScout, we know that the process of changing Medicare Supplement Plans can be complicated and overwhelming. 

Not only are there guaranteed issue rights to think about, but you also want to choose the right policy for your health care needs and budget. 

If you have any questions or concerns about changing Medicare Supplement Plans, contact one of our consultants today. 

You can reach us by phone at 1-888-912-2132 or email us at Help@PolicyScout.com

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Compare insurance carriers in your area. It's 100% free.

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