If you have been on a supplement long enough, you’ve probably experienced your fair share of rate increases, and have the same question.
To save money on your Medicare Supplement, you need to compare the same coverage you have now with the carriers in your area. Applying is easy. You’ll have to answer a few medical questions and once you’re approved, coverage can start as soon as the first of next month. Savings can range anywhere from $30-$80 a month.
Medicare supplements, also known as Medigap plans, are plans you can purchase in addition to Medicare to help minimize your out-of-pocket expenses.
The good news is you are not stuck and can switch whenever you want.
We talk to many people who want to change their Supplement plans but are unsure when to do so and how the process works.
The easiest way to save money is to move from one company to another. As long as you keep the same Plan “letter, your benefits will not change.
There are a few things to remember when moving and not everyone can.
Today we will talk about how switching from one Medicare Supplement Plan to another can save you money.
Medicare Supplements Are Standardized
What this means is that the benefits do not change from one company to the next.
As long as you compare the same letter, you can keep the same coverage.
The U.S. government sets the benefits, not the insurance companies. So you can feel comfortable knowing that you can save money without sacrificing benefits.
You can read more about Supplements and how they are standardized here.
When Can I Switch Plans?
When you have a Medicare Supplement plan, you can switch to another supplement any time throughout the year.
You do not have to wait for any special enrollment periods to apply (unless you are on an Advantage Plan).
When you try to switch plans, you will almost always be subject to medical underwriting, even if you make the switch during one of Medicare’s enrollment periods.
If you are new to Medicare, you can get any supplement you would like without answering any health questions.
Keep reading below to learn more about medical underwriting.
Being subject to medical underwriting means the application for a new Supplement plan will include a health questionnaire.
There are several yes or no questions you will have to answer regarding a variety of medical conditions.
Some insurance companies also ask for your height and weight as well as prescription medication information.
The insurance company might also look into your medical and prescription medication history.
The company will then either approve or decline your application for coverage based on its findings.
Here are what a portion of the underwriting questions will look like:
What Happens When My Application is Approved?
If your application is approved, your new coverage will begin the first of the month following the month you applied.
The earliest you can apply is 60 days before you would like your coverage to begin.
You will have to notify your current insurance carrier that you would like to cancel your existing coverage for the day that your new coverage will begin.
Let’s look at an example:
Margaret has had a Supplement Plan F for the last 5 years.
She’s experienced quite a few rate increases and cannot afford her supplement anymore.
Margaret calls her agent, and he tells her that she could save money by moving companies.
Her agent gave her a few choices.
Moving to a different Plan F saves her $45 a month.
Or $90 a month by switching to Plan G.
You can read the difference between Plan F and Plan G here.
Because Margaret will be saving over $1,000 a year, she decides it makes sense to switch from Plan F to Plan G to increase her potential savings.
Nothing will change about her benefits and coverage, except that she will have to meet a small deductible when she moves to G. Every else stays the same.
Margaret applies for Plan G in November.
After answering a few health questions, the insurance company approves her application.
Her new coverage begins on December 1st.
What if My Application Is Not Approved?
If the insurance company declines your application, do not worry.
There are still some options available to you.
Each company has different medical underwriting guidelines.
If one company declines your application, another company might approve it.
Working with an independent broker, you both can find a company that will approve you based on your specific health conditions.
Read here to learn how to pick an insurance agent.
If you have a medical condition that prevents your application from being approved by any company, the good news is nothing can happen to your existing Supplement coverage.
As long as you continue to pay your monthly premiums, your coverage is guaranteed renewable.
You cannot lose your existing coverage unless you notify the insurance company that you want to cancel it.
Applying for new coverage does not affect your existing coverage because of a change in your health status or if you were turned down.
Let’s look at some examples:
1.) Henry wants to switch from Plan G to Plan N to save some money on monthly premiums.
Plan N is very similar to Plan G, except Plan N will require that Henry pays a $20 copay when he goes to a doctor or specialist.
Henry applies for Plan N with ABC Company, but unfortunately, the company declines his application.
He receives a letter from the ABC Company stating that his COPD was the reason for the decline.
Henry’s agent lets him know that Company XYZ might be a good option because it has been over two years since he was diagnosed with or received any treatment or medication for his COPD.
He saves $30 by switching.
2.) Henry’s neighbor Nancy decides she would also like to go from Plan G to Plan N after Henry tells her how much money he is saving.
Nancy has diabetes, along with a history of heart attack and heart surgery.
Because of this, several insurance companies decline Nancy’s applications for Plan N.
The good news is that Nancy gets to keep her current Plan G coverage.
Supplements provide excellent coverage, especially compared to some of the alternatives, and Plan G is still a good plan to have.
There are a handful of states that allow you to switch supplements without being subject to medical underwriting.
We talked about these state-specific rules in more detail in another post, which you can read here.
Below we will briefly mention the states that have specific rules regarding switching supplements and what those rules are:
- California & Oregon – These states have a Birthday Rule that lets you switch from your supplement plan to a plan of equal or lesser value within 30 days of your birthday without medical underwriting
- Washington & Connecticut – These states allow you to switch from your supplement to any other supplement any time throughout the year without medical underwriting
- New York & Vermont – These states allow you to enroll in or change from one supplement to another any time throughout the year without medical underwriting
- Missouri – In Missouri, you can switch from your supplement plan to a like supplement plan within 30 days of your policy anniversary without medical underwriting
The most significant difference in these state-specific rules is that New York and Vermont do not require that you already have a supplement in place to enroll in one.
In all of the other states mentioned above, you must already have a supplement in place and cannot be getting on one for the very first time.
Continue reading below, and we will discuss how the rules differ when you are still new to Medicare.
I Am Still New to Medicare and Want to Switch Supplements
When you are new to Medicare, you can get any supplement plan you want without being subject to medical underwriting.
If you know when your Part B start date will be, you can typically apply for a supplement to begin the same time as Part B as early as six months ahead of time.
It is important to note that some companies will only allow you to apply three months ahead of time.
You also have six months after your Part B start date to switch to another supplement without being subject to medical underwriting.
Let’s look at an example:
Helen turned 65 in July.
She applied for Part B and supplement Plan G in May for a July 1st start date.
In September, after Helen has had Plan G for a couple of months, she realizes that she would like to save some money by switching to Plan N.
Helen applies for Plan N and is not subject to medical underwriting because it is still within six months from when Part B began.
Her application is almost instantly approved and begins on October 1st.
Helen notifies the insurance company she purchases Plan G from that she will be canceling that coverage for October 1st.
When you have a Medicare supplement, you can switch plans any time you would like throughout the year.
The process of switching supplements will almost always require that you are subject to medical underwriting.
If one insurance company declines your application, you might be able to get an application with a different insurance company approved.
Suppose several companies decline your applications for new coverage. In that case, your existing plan remains intact, and the good news is that you still have a supplement, and supplements provide excellent coverage.
If you are new to Medicare or live in a state with specific rules regarding switching supplements, you may be able to change plans without being subject to medical underwriting.
If you have any questions, use the search tool at the top of this page or on the home page.
Or, if you would like further detail on any of the topics we discussed, please fill out a contact form and submit your question.
If you prefer to speak by phone, call us at 888-209-5049.
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