The Best Time to Switch From a Medicare Advantage Plan to a Medigap Plan

Last of a three-part series.

Medicare’s annual election period runs from Oct. 15 through December 7.

And that’s the best time to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to a Medigap plan, according to Jae Oh, author of Maximize Your Medicare.

According to Oh, it’s critical that your Medigap carrier your application before you switch out of your Medicare Advantage and sign up for a standalone Part D plan. The worst outcome, he says, would be to have your Medigap application denied and choose a Part D plan. That would “eject” the Medicare Advantage plan that you may have in place and leave you without additional health benefits, said Oh.

Watch Oh’s videos on the topics on YouTube. Also read Buying your Medigap policy.

So, why might you switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to a Medigap plan?

There are a few reasons, according to Oh. The annual contracts are subject to change every year. And those changes could include premiums, copays, deductibles and doctors. By contrast, under Medigap, there is no concept of network. Every health care provider accepts a Medigap plan. To be sure, the premiums might cost more. But buying a Medigap plan could be one way to manage and mitigate the risk of unexpected health care costs in retirement,

So, what’s the best way to search for and select a Medigap policy?

1. Start with Medicare’s Plan Finder tool. One drawback with the tool, according to Oh, is this: The transparency of Medigap premiums is not very good. “The prices don’t accurately reflect the most updated premiums from carrier to carrier,” he says.

And as a result, it can be too high in certain instances. And that can be a disincentive; people might look at the list and think it’s too expensive when in fact the actual price in the marketplace is much lower. “It’s just been my general observation that the prices are not exactly at the razor’s edge of where the market sits at that time,” said Oh.

One bit of good news, according to Medicare.gov, is this: Every Medigap policy must follow federal and state laws designed to protect you, and it must be clearly identified as “Medicare Supplement Insurance.” Insurance companies can sell you only a “standardized” policy identified in most states by letters. All policies offer the same basic benefits but some offer additional benefits, so you can choose which one meets your needs. In Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Medigap policies are standardized in a different way.

When selecting a plan, Oh said the two most important factors to consider are the type of plan that best suits your needs and the carrier. And it’s really important to get the carrier right. You shouldn’t choose just any carrier, he says. Since underwriting is involved, there are certain instances where oh might suggest one carrier that is more likely to accept an applicant versus another.

2. Your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) will provide you in-depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance with Medicare.

3. Contact a professional, such as Oh, for a consultation. Here’s a link to request a consultation with Oh. 

Also read:

 How to pick a Part D prescription drug plan

 How to pick a Medicare Advantage plan 

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