“When can I change Medicare Supplements?”
That’s the question I often find online with sites like Quora, online searches, and even with people concerned about their Medicare Supplement plan. The answer is simple:
“You can change Medicare Supplement plans any time of the year you want. As long as you can medically qualify.”
Today’s article is all about signing up for Medigap plans, when you’re allowed to shop, and the 5 best times to consider shopping around.
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Table of Contents
When Is The Best Time To Buy A Medicare Supplements?
The absolute best time to buy a Medicare Supplement in Michigan is when you first qualify for and are enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B. This triggers your Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
This is because you can buy and Medicare Supplement plan available to you without any medical questions or underwriting considerations.
While it used to be that most people enrolled in Part A&B at age 65, many seniors are working well past the age 65 eligibility, per NPR. It’s important to know that as long as you have a creditable coverage, your Medigap Open Enrollment period will not occur until the last day you work OR the last day of coverage, whichever occurs first.
When Am I Allowed To Change Medicare Supplements In Michigan?
Most seniors believe that they can only change Medicare Supplements during the Annual Open Enrollment period. Luckily, this isn’t true.
You are allowed to change Medicare Supplements at any time of the year. However, unless you meet a guaranteed issue situation, you are required to qualify for a Medicare Supplement.
It’s important to know that Medigap Open Enrollment noted above generally only happens one time. While other states may have a Birthday Rule or Anniversary Rule, Michigan does not. You must qualify with an insurance company to change Medicare Supplement plans.
How Do I Qualify For A Medicare Supplement?
In short, in order to qualify for a Medicare Supplement in Michigan outside of the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you have to pass Medical Underwriting. This means you’ll have medical questions on your application.
This can cause worry for some seniors because they have health conditions like heart disease or diabetes. It’s important to know that these health issues may not immediately disqualify you from qualifying for a new plan.
While all insurance companies as the same general questions, each company has different requirements to pass their underwriting criteria.
For example, taking 60 units of insulin daily may exclude you from Company A, but Company B will accept you. Working with an independent Medicare Insurance agent will help determine if you qualify for a plan and if it’s worthwhile switching companies or not.
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5 Times To Consider Changing Medicare Supplement Plan Companies
Many seniors stay on the plan they signed up for until their mid-70’s. Finally, the premiums have gotten so high that they’re considering switching plans.
Here are five instances where you should consider shopping for another plan. Working with a professional will help you be better prepared on if you can qualify and if it’s worth it.
Any agent that simply tried to push you to a new plan is not the right agent for you. It has to be in your best interests to change Medicare Supplement companies.
1) If You Haven't Shopped Your Plan In At Least Three Years
Most insurance companies have relatively small rate increases in the first three years that you purchase the plan. In other instances, you may not see a rate increase from age 65-68. However, Medicare Supplements will always rise in price as you age.
Every three years, you’ve had at least a few rate increases. Due to the nature of the Medicare Supplement market, it’s a good idea to review rates to ensure you’re still getting the best value for your premium dollar.
PRO TIP: If you’re not saving more than $15 dollars a month, it may not be worth the effort of switching plans. Most Medicare Supplement plans have at least a $20, or more, one-time application fee.
2) If You've Had An Increase Of $20 Or More A Month In A Single Year
This instance is the same as number one. If you’re seeing a premium increase of over $20 in one year, it’s highly likely you don’t have the most efficient plan on the market.
Increases of $20+ dollars in a year are a sign that the company was relatively new to the marketplace and are adjusting for the claims experience of all the new people coming on board OR there’s a financial issue that’s causing them to increase rates.
While I never suggest you shop by rate increase history, as it’s an inaccurate indicator of future increases, it’s important to recognize when something is out of the ordinary.
3) A Change In Medicare Supplement Laws
The Medicare Supplement market can be altered based on Federal laws.
In 2010, Plan J was discontinued for new Medicare participants. In January 2020, Plan C and F were discontinued for new enrollees.
It’s always a good idea to consider other plans when older plans stop accepting new participants. Without younger, healthier people to balance out the older, more likely to have health issues, participants, rates may increase unacceptably over time.
There may be a more efficient way for you to get the coverage you want without spending more out of pocket.
4) A Change In The Medicare Supplement Insurance Company
Medicare Supplement insurance companies can also make changes. There are a few companies that do what’s known as the “Omaha Shuffle.”
This term is coined after Mutual of Omaha. Basically, the company had a tendency to open an insurance company subsidiary to take on new clients. After a few years, the claims experience would sky rocket rates. They would shut down the old insurance company and open a new one. Rinse and repeat.
This seems to have calmed down over the last decade in Michigan, but it’s always worth noting that when an insurance company stops enrolling people it’s a sign that it might be time to leave.
It’s the same basis as number 4. No new people will balance out the older, sicker, population and rate increases start to become more drastic. The healthier people that can bail, will. Which eventually causes the sicker people to have no other options except accept the rate increases.
5) Dissatisfaction With Your Companies Customer Service
Customer service is pretty important with Medicare Supplements. In a perfect world, you’d have an agent that works with you when you have questions about your plan, even after the sale. However, that’s not always the case.
When you have a poor customer service experience, either with the company or agent, it’s important to remember that you’re paying them to provide a service. Agents get paid for years after you purchase a plan. Part of that is to encourage agents to help with basic questions.
If the customer service experience isn’t meeting your needs, it’s important to consider making a switch. It’s rare that you’re getting the absolute best rate available for your plan, and even if you are, there are competitors within a dollar or two more that may provide better service.
It’s important for Medicare participants to recognize that Medicare Supplements are standardized. A Plan G with Company A covers the exact same thing as a Plan G with Company B.
Furthermore, all Medicare Supplement plans work identically and, except in rare situations, cover the same doctors and providers. The most important things to consider when it comes to shopping for Medicare Supplements in Michigan is three things:
- How long they’ve been in the market
- Customer service
Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it on your favorite social media network!