Can I Buy a Medicare Supplement Plan at Any Time?
The best time to buy a Medicare Supplement plan, or Medigap, is during your six-month open enrollment period. During this time, an insurance company cannot deny you coverage based on your health. After this period, you may pay more for a Medigap policy or get denied coverage due to poor health.
When Is the Best Time to Buy Medigap?
The best time to buy Medigap is when you are first eligible.
During this time, the medical underwriting process is waived. Medical underwriting allows private insurance companies to ask you questions about your health.
If you’re in poor health or have preexisting conditions, an insurer can deny you coverage or force you to pay higher premiums for a policy.
Those rules don’t’ apply when you’re first eligible for a Medicare Supplement plan. During your Medigap open enrollment period, you can buy any policy for the same price as people in good health.
This six-month period can’t be changed or repeated.
- Within six months of starting Medicare Part B benefits. You can either enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible at age 65 or you may choose to delay Part B enrollment until you or your spouse stops working for an employer that provides health insurance.
- Within 63 days of losing health insurance that provides secondary coverage to Medicare — such as retiree benefits or COBRA temporary insurance.
- Within 63 days of losing coverage from a Medicare Advantage plan because you left its service area, or the plan stopped providing coverage in your area. This special enrollment period applies only if you enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), not if you enroll in a different Medicare Advantage plan.
- Within 63 days of losing coverage if you drop a Medigap policy because the insurance company committed fraud, didn’t follow the rules or misled you.
- Within 63 days after your insurance company goes bankrupt.
- Within 63 days of losing coverage from a Medicare SELECT policy if you leave its service area.
There are two other situations when you can buy a Medigap policy without undergoing medical underwriting.
- You enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or PACE program when you were first eligible for Medicare at age 65, but you change your mind within the first year and want to return to Original Medicare.
- You drop your Medigap plan to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time, then change your mind during the first year and want to switch back to Original Medicare and your former Medigap plan.
Technically, you can still apply for a Medigap policy any time after enrolling in Medicare.
But if you do so after your six-month open enrollment window, there’s no guarantee an insurance company will sell you a policy if you don’t meet the medical underwriting requirements.
When Can I Switch Medigap Policies?
You may purchase a Medigap policy only to realize it doesn’t provide the coverage or benefits you need.
If you want to switch to a different supplement plan, it may be easiest do so within your six-month open enrollment period.
If you join a Medigap plan during this six-month window and decide you don’t like the policy, you can switch to a different supplement plan and retain your guaranteed issue rights.
If your six-month period has already ended and you want to make a switch, you may face medical underwriting restrictions. Your premiums may be higher if you have health problems — or your application could be denied outright.
But don’t let these obstacles deter you, as many people change plans during the year and go through the underwriting process successfully.
If you’re in good health and comfortable answering medical questions, you can apply to change Medigap plans at any time of the year.
Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can only be changed during certain times of year, but Medicare supplements are different.
Medigap plans are standardized under federal law so consumers can easily compare benefits and premiums across plans.
There are 10 Medicare Supplement plans to choose from. Each has a specific letter, such as Plan F and Plan A. You pay the insurer a monthly premium for the policy.
Your Guaranteed Issue Rights
Many states provide additional Medigap rights and protections.
States can create their own consumer protections for Medigap that go beyond minimum federal standards set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
In certain states and situations, insurance companies must offer you Medigap policies even if your initial six-month guaranteed issue rights window has ended.
However, only a handful of states require continuous or annual guaranteed issue Medigap protections to all Original Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older, regardless of medical history.
- New York and Connecticut
- Medigap policies are guaranteed issue year-round. You don’t need to worry about the six-month enrollment window if you live in these states.
- There is a two-month window each year from Feb. 1 to March 31 when you can purchase a Medigap plan under guaranteed issue.
- California and Oregon
- In these states, you can switch from one Medigap policy to another with the same or less benefits during a 30-day window following your birthday each year.
- You can switch to a different Medigap plan with the same or less benefits at any time during the year. All Medigap carriers are also required to designate one month each year when Medigap Plan A is available on a guaranteed issue basis to all enrollees.
- You have a 60-day window around your plan anniversary each year when you can switch to the same plan offered by a different insurance company with guaranteed issue rights.
- Idaho, Illinois and Nevada
- Idaho, Nevada and Illinois are new states with guaranteed issue rights and they vary based on carrier. Check with a professional to determine eligibility in these states.
Several other states have expanded guaranteed issue rights by including additional qualifying events.
For example, in 2018, nine states provided Medigap guaranteed issue rights to applicants who lost their Medicaid eligibility, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
To learn more about Medigap rights in your state, call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.
6 Cited Research Articles
- Boccuti, C., Jacobson, G., Orgera, K. et al. (2018, July 11). Medigap Enrollment and Consumer Protections Vary Across States. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/medigap-enrollment-and-consumer-protections-vary-across-states/
- AARP. (n.d.). When to Buy Medicare Supplement Insurance. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/best-time-to-buy-a-medigap-policy/
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Guaranteed issue rights. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap/guaranteed-issue-rights
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Switching Medigap policies. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap/switching-medigap-policies
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). What is Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/whats-medicare-supplement-insurance-medigap
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). When can I buy Medigap? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap