Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap or MedSup), sold by private companies, helps pay some health care costs that Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn’t cover. Policies can include coverage for deductibles, coinsurance, hospital costs, skilled nursing facility costs, and sometimes health care costs when traveling outside the U.S.
If you’re considering one of the 10 standardized Medigap plans – A, B, C, D, F, G, K L, M, and N – it’s important to get the facts early so you don’t miss the enrollment deadline. Here’s what you need to know about buying a Medicare Supplement Plan now and making changes in the future.
When can I enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan?
When newly eligible for Medicare, you enter a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) which begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after the month of your birthday. If not automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), you may sign up during this period, as well as choose to join a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) or Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) with or without prescription drug coverage.
You may also join a Medicare Supplement Plan (Medigap) during part of your Initial Enrollment Period; however, the rules are a little different. You only have a guaranteed issue right to enroll in Medigap during your “six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period,” or when you have reached your 65th birthday and are enrolled in Medicare Part B. After this enrollment period, you may not have another chance to buy a Medigap policy– and if you are able to buy one from an insurance company in the future, it may cost more.
When can I change my Medicare Supplement Plan?
Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to parts of their Medicare coverage – including their Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) – during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) which takes place every year from October 15th to December 7th.
However, Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans are not part of this (AEP) enrollment period. Typically, you won’t have a right to switch to a different Medigap policy at any point unless you’re (1) still within your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period or (2) you’re eligible under a specific circumstance, or “guaranteed issue right,” if your health insurance plan changes or no longer offers you coverage.
Medigap’s “Free Look Period”
If you’re within your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period and considering a different Medigap plan, you may try a new Medigap policy during a 30-day “free look period.” During this period, you will have two Medigap plans, and pay the premium for both. At the end of the trial, you choose the one plan that is right for your needs.
Guaranteed Issue Rights
You may be able to buy or change your Medicare Supplement Plan outside of your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period, if you have a “guaranteed issue right” – meaning an insurance company can’t refuse to sell you a Medigap policy – in the following situations:
- Your current Medicare Advantage plan is leaving Medicare, stops giving care in your area, or you move out of the plan’s service area
- You have Original Medicare and your employer group health plan or union coverage that pays after Medicare pays is ending
- You have Original Medicare and a Medicare SELECT policy and move out of the Medicare SELECT policy’s service area
- Your Medigap insurance company goes bankrupt and you lose your coverage, or your Medigap policy coverage otherwise ends through no fault of your own
- You leave a Medicare Advantage plan or drop a Medigap policy because the company hasn’t followed the rules, or it misled you
- You joined a Medicare Advantage plan or Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) when you were first eligible for Medicare Part A at age 65, and within the first year of joining, decide to switch to Original Medicare. (Considered a trial right)
- You dropped a Medigap policy to join a Medicare Advantage plan (or to switch to a Medicare SELECT policy) for the first time, you’ve been in the plan less than a year, and you want to switch back. (Considered a trial right)
How to Cancel a Medicare Supplement Plan
There is not a required disenrollment period for canceling your Medicare Supplement plan. You may drop your Medigap policy at any time by requesting a cancellation through your insurance company; however, if you decide to leave, you may not be able to buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan at another time, unless you have a trial right or guaranteed issue right (see above).
Need help choosing a Medicare Supplement Plan? No matter where you are in your Medicare journey, Medicare.org’s information and resources can help make it easy to find the quality and affordable Medicare plan that’s right for you. We offer free comparisons for Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), Medicare Supplement Plans (Medigap), and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).