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Most retirees know that there's an open enrollment period when you first become eligible for Medicare. But things can change, and you may decide you want to get new coverage that's a better fit for your needs. If you've found yourself wondering when you can change your Medicare supplement insurance plan or how to choose Medicare supplement insurance, the answers typically depend on a few different factors, including what type of coverage you currently have.
Reasons for Changing Your Supplement Insurance
You might want to change your Medicare supplement insurance, which is also known as Medigap coverage, for a variety of reasons:
You're paying for more than you need: If you're paying for coverage that you don't use (and don't anticipate using), it may make sense to switch to a less costly policy.
Your existing coverage falls short: You may find that care is not covered to the extent you'd like. If that's the case, an upgrade may be in order.
You need a new insurance company: Whether you're dissatisfied with customer service, health care options or other features from your current provider, a different insurance company might bring improvements.
You want to pay less: You may be able to switch to another policy with lower rates.
If You Already Have Medicare Supplement Insurance
If you're already covered by a Medigap policy, you can apply for a different policy at any time. There's no required waiting period, and you don't have to wait until open enrollment to apply for new coverage. However, there's no guarantee that you'll get the results you want.
When you switch to a different policy, you may have to answer health questions. Based on your answers, it's possible that another insurer will decline your application or charge higher premiums.
Getting the Same Level of Coverage
When you get approved for a new policy with the same benefits as your current policy, you may get favorable treatment when it comes to preexisting conditions. If you've had your policy for at least six months, the new insurer cannot put a waiting period on coverage for preexisting conditions, according to Medicare.gov. If your current policy is less than six months old, you may still have to wait, but you may get credit for the months you've had your policy.
Example: Say you've had a Medigap policy for four months. You get approved for a new policy from a different insurance company with the same benefits, and you have a preexisting condition. The new insurer has a six-month waiting period on that condition, but they must subtract your four months of coverage, resulting in a waiting period of only two months for full coverage.
Getting More Coverage
If you want to switch to a plan that offers more benefits than your current plan, you may have a waiting period for certain types of coverage.
If You Don't Already Have Medicare Supplement Insurance
If you don't currently have a Medigap policy, you can still apply for one. However, you may have to answer medical questions and go through underwriting. If you have health issues, the insurance company might decline offering coverage or charge higher premiums.
When Can I Change My Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan?
As you can see, the answer is that you can always apply, but you might not get approved for coverage, or you may have a change in premiums. Depending on what state you live in, you may have additional rights, so consider speaking with a financial representative as you explore your options.
Guaranteed Issue Rights
In some cases, you can switch to a Medicare supplement plan without worrying about waiting periods, preexisting conditions or higher premiums. If you meet certain criteria, insurers are required to approve your application. That may happen when your health care coverage changes or if there are problems with your current insurer.
The Bottom Line
If you're not happy with your current coverage, it may be possible to switch. After doing so, you might enjoy lower premiums, better coverage and other benefits. If you're wondering how to choose Medicare supplement insurance, consider working with a financial representative. By discussing your preferences, your health issues and your budget, you can likely find a policy that fits your needs.