Choosing healthcare options can be confusing, especially when you’re older and suffering from health problems. You may be wondering how easy it is to change options. You may find you’ve made a wrong decision or your circumstances may have changed. For instance, if your health has deteriorated, you may want to choose a plan that offers you more cover. 

What is the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement insurance plans?

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and provide an alternate way to get health benefits, covering everything Medicare Part A and B covers. They may offer extra benefits, such as vision, hearing and dental care. Most plans also include prescription drug coverage.

Medical Supplement insurance plans cover some or all of your out-of-pocket expenses when you’re enrolled with Medicare Part A and B. These gaps in cover include coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. 

Russel Noga, Medisupps owner, advises always comparing Medicare Supplement plans to see what rates are being offered. Medigap plans (such as Plan C or Plan G) provide different levels of coverage but companies offer identical cover for each plan number. At Medicare supplement plans 2021, you can access all the information you need to decide which plan suits you best. 

When to change plans

Switching from Medicare Advantage requires several steps. You first need to drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Medicare Part A and Part B Medicare. Only then can you apply for a Medigap plan. 

There are certain time periods when you can drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. The Annual Election Period (October 15 to December 7) gives you options to change your coverage. You can change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Medicare Part A and Part B or vice versa. 

The annual disenrollment period (January 1 to February 14) specifically gives you the option of switching from a Medicare Advantage plan to Medicare Part A and B. 

You are able to drop out of a Medicare Advantage plan at any time during the first 12 months if you dropped a Medigap policy to join the Advantage plan and it’s the first Medicare Advantage Plan you have ever been enrolled in or if you joined the plan when you enrolled in Medicare at age 65. 

Otherwise, you are only able to switch between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part A and Part B if you meet certain requirements. For example, if you move outside of your plan’s service area or your Medicare Advantage plan leaves your service area. You may also be able to switch if you move from your home into a nursing facility, or back home from one. 

Open enrollment window period for Medicare Supplement plans

Medicare Supplement plans have an open enrollment period of six months. The period starts on the first day of the month when you turn 65 and you must be enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this time window of six months, the insurance company can’t reject you for health reasons. 

Once you leave your Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Medicare Part A and B, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. However, when switching from Medicare Advantage to a Medical Supplement plan, your insurance company may require medical underwriting before it accepts you. 

You are able to apply for a Medicare Supplement Plan after the six month open window period at any other time of the year. Still, you will have to answer health questions and pass medical underwriting to be accepted. You may be rejected due to your medical history or you may have to pay a higher premium.