Can I switch or cancel my Medicare Supplemental Plan anytime?

Medicare info

There might be times when you want to switch or cancel your Medigap policy, for example because you are not satisfied with the customer service of your plan provider, the benefits of your plan don’t match your medical needs anymore, or your policy is too expensive compared to other available options.

You may find yourself in a situation where you need to switch or cancel your plan for reasons other than dissatisfaction, for example if the provider gos out of business, or stops offering the plan in your area.

Switching Medigap Plans

The exact regulations for switching Medigap plans depend on your state. Call the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or your State Insurance Department (SID) for details.

Timing Matters

Under federal law, you don’t have a right to switch Medicare supplement plans, with two exceptions:

  1. If you have purchased a Medigap plan for the first time and are still within your 6-month initial enrollment period, you may switch to a different plan.
  2. In specific situations, you may be protected under ‘guaranteed issue rights’, and an insurer must sell you a Medigap policy, regardless of your age or pre-existing health issues. This applies to you for example if your current insurer goes out of business.

Guaranteed Rights
If you don’t have a ‘guaranteed right’ by the means of federal law, you can contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program to find out if your state has less strict requirements. If not, you may still be able to switch to a different plan by your insurance provider. Some insurers may be generous, but you may have to go through ‘underwriting’ or the premium for the new policy may be higher.

30 Day Free Look Period
If you switched and don’t like your new policy, you have 30 days to switch back. In order to exercise this right, you must keep your current policy, and state on the application for the new plan, that you will cancel your first policy if you decide to keep the new on.

Canceling Medigap Plans

There may be situations when you may want to cancel Medigap all together, and go back to original Medicare.

While you do have the right to cancel your policy at any time, be aware that when you do so, you may not be able to get it back at a later time. Under some circumstances (for example if you have bad health), you may not even be able to get into any other supplemental insurance. There is no guarantee that any insurance company has to sell you a Medigap policy, unless in specific situations.

In case you also drop your Part D prescription drug plan, and decide at a later point in time that you want to enroll in a Part D again, and your drug coverage in the meantime was not ‘creditable’, you will have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Switching From Medigap To A Medicare Advantage Plan

If you believe that Medigap plans don’t work for you anymore, you may consider enrolling in a Medicare advantage plan. Be careful about the timing: You may only join an advantage plan each year during the open enrollment period in fall from October 15 through December 7. Remember that you do not benefit from having a supplemental insurance and an advantage plan at the same time. You will have to pay two premiums, but your Medigap policy won’t pay for any deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, premiums or other out of pocket costs when you are enrolled in Medicare advantage. So make sure to cancel your supplemental plan after you have acquired the advantage policy.

The Correct Procedure To Switch Or Cancel Plans

If you switch plans, contact the new plan provider first and apply for your new policy. Don’t cancel your previous coverage before they have approved your application! Once you are accepted, contact your old insurance company to cancel your current coverage.

Do I Need To Switch Medicare Plans When I’m Moving?

You do NOT need to switch your Medigap policy if you move within the US, as long you stay enrolled in Medicare, and continue to pay your monthly premiums. You should however make sure that the health care provider at your new location accepts Medicare supplement plans before you schedule an appointment. However, you are free to switch plans, for example if you are unable to find a new provider to your liking who accepts your plan. Be aware though that you are not protected by ‘guaranteed issue rights’ when you cancel your current policy outside of the open enrollment period. This means, no insurance provider is required to sell you a policy, or you may have to go through ‘underwriting’ and meet certain health requirements, or the new plan may be more expensive.

By: Joseph Rosario

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