Changing Medicare and Medicare Supplement plans is done during specific periods, but swapping plans can be done outside the designated periods in specific situations. Researching and being well-prepared before deciding to change plans can make the process less complicated.
The most common Medicare enrollment period occurs every year between Oct 15 and Dec 7, known as the open enrollment period. However, this does not apply to Medicare Supplement plans.
Medicare Supplement plans, or Medigap, can only be switched for other plans during the first six months of purchasing the initial Medigap or if one has a guaranteed issue right.
Insurance companies can sell a Medigap plan at any time; however, they are not required to do so unless it’s the initial enrollment period or due to a guaranteed issue right.
The initial enrollment period, which is the primary time that most individuals enroll in Medicare, begins three months before obtaining Medicare (generally your 65th birthday) and concludes three months after you first obtain Medicare. If you missed enrolling during your initial period, you may not be able to enroll until the Medicare Advantage Open enrollment period or General Enrollment period, which is from January 1 through March 31.
However, you may have increased premium costs as a result of late enrollment. Other exceptional circumstances may make one eligible for a special enrollment period. Open Enrollment occurs each year from October 15 through December 7 and this is the time to change Medicare plans if desired.
Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, open enrollment occurs within the first six months after turning 65 and acquiring Medicare Part B. Generally, this is the only time to buy a Medigap policy. You can attempt to purchase a Medigap policy later; however, insurance companies are not required to sell you a policy outside of the initial six months unless you have a guaranteed issue right.
|Enrollment Period||Key points|
|Medicare Advantage Enrollment|
|Special Enrollment||The time for a special enrollment depends on specific occurrences. For instance, if you moved out of state, your current insurance company is dropping Medicare coverage, or you are newly eligible for Medicaid in addition to Medicare, you may be granted a special enrollment period to join Medicare Advantage or switch plans if needed.|
Can you change Medicare plans after open enrollment?
Generally, the open enrollment period is the primary time for changing Medicare plans as well as swapping your original Medicare for Medicare Advantage or vice versa. Unless you are already in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can change plans during the Medicare Advantage enrollment period from January 1 to March 31 or if you have a unique situation that would grant you a special enrollment period as described in the above table.
Medicare Supplement plans
Medicare Supplement plans are also known as Medigap policies. These health insurance policies can be purchased to help cover costs associated with original Medicare, such as deductibles or co-insurance. Standardized supplement plans are available in every state, and prices can vary depending on the insurance company and how the plan is rated. Medigap plans are not required, but some may find them helpful for covering additional health care expenses.
Changing Medicare Supplement plans: things to know
There are some instances when you may decide to switch your Medigap policy. For example, maybe you’re paying for benefits you don’t need or require additional benefits not included in your current policy. Your overall needs or financial situation may change, or you may want to go with a different insurance company that supplies the same policy you currently have.
It’s important to review all the benefits pros and cons of each type of Medigap plan before deciding to buy one or change plans. Once you’ve done your research and decided on a plan, you can always apply for a new one at your current company or with another company, and they may be willing to sell you one. However, in many cases, the insurance company may not be legally required to sell you a policy outside of the six-month Medigap open enrollment unless you have a specific situation granting guaranteed issue rights.
If you are within the Medigap open enrollment period or have a unique circumstance granting you guaranteed issue rights, or the insurance company is willing, then you will want to ensure you schedule the coverage of your previous plan to end after your new policy has been in effect for 30 days. This is called the 30-day free look period, in which you have a probationary period to determine if you like the new policy. You can cancel and keep your old policy if you don't like it. You cannot have two Medigap policies, so one of the policies will need to be dropped by the end of the free look period. Also, you will have to pay for both policies during those 30 days.
When can you change Medicare Supplement plans?
You can trade your Medigap plan for another whenever the insurance company is willing to sell to you; however, they may not be required under federal law except in certain situations. You most likely won’t have a right to change your Medigap policy for another one unless one of the following conditions apply. One, you are still within the one-time six-month open enrollment period for Medigap policies, starting when you first obtain Medicare Part B, and you must be at least 65. If the first condition doesn’t apply to you, then the only other time you may have a federal right to a Medigap plan is if you have what’s called a “guaranteed issue right.”
This guaranteed issue right relates to circumstances in which an insurance company may legally be required to sell you a Medicare Supplement plan. Special events leading to a guaranteed issue right may be related to, for example, health coverage changes or loss of coverage. You can also drop a Medigap policy, but in most cases, you won’t be able to return to one in the future, so you want to review all the pros and cons before doing so.
Medicare Supplement or Medigap plans are generally obtained during the first six months of becoming 65 and enrolling in Medicare Part B or during certain situations where one may have a guaranteed issue right. However, an insurance company may be willing to sell a Medigap policy to an individual outside of these circumstances, but they are generally not required by law. An individual may apply for a Medigap plan at any time, but the insurance company may deny the coverage based on medical issues if one applies outside of the initial six-month period.
Before beginning the process of changing or dropping a Medigap policy, one should research what the different plans offer and determine the pros and cons of each because once the plan is traded for another or if it's dropped, it may be difficult or impossible to get back.
Is Medigap the same as Medicare Supplement?
Yes, Medicare supplemental insurance, or Medigap, is “extra” insurance that can be purchased by those enrolled in original Medicare to help cover additional costs.
Can you change Medigap plans at any time?
Generally, the answer is only if the insurance company you want to purchase from is willing to sell you the policy. Otherwise, Medigap plans can only be traded during the initial six-month enrollment or if the individual has a special circumstance.
Can I drop my Medigap Plan?
Yes, you can drop your Medigap plan; however, it may be difficult or impossible to get it back.
- Medicare.gov. Can I change my Medigap Policy?
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Module 3: - Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap Policies).
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Choosing a Medigap Policy: A guide to health insurance for people with Medicare.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Open Enrollment.
- Medicare.gov. Joining a Plan.
Show all references
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Enrolling in Medicare Part A & Part B