The best time to enroll in a Medigap plan is during the six-month Medigap open enrollment period which begins the month you’re 65 and you are enrolled in Part B. If you apply for coverage outside of your open enrollment period, you may be required to provide your health history and be medically underwritten. This means you could be denied coverage, or it may cost more.
Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota says it's seen a net increase in Medicare enrollment of about 4,500 people during 2019, with most activity coming from people moving into Medigap plans. The insurer says that many Cost plan enrollees found the closest fit to their old coverage is original Medicare plus a Medigap supplemental plan plus stand-alone Part D drug coverage.
Between January 1 and March 31 each year, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave your plan and return to Original Medicare, and buy a Part D prescription drug plan to supplement your Original Medicare. Starting in 2019, you also have the option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan during this time. From 2011 through 2018, there wasn’t an option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan outside of the fall open enrollment period unless you had a circumstance that allowed you a Special Enrollment Period. But the 21st Century Cures Act (Section 17005) expanded the timeframe of the window (from one and a half months to three months) starting in 2019, and allows people to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
Another wrinkle is that people who want a supplement might have a better chance of getting into the coverage during the transition out of their Medicare Cost plan, when the supplement is provided on a “guaranteed issue” basis. Later, insurance companies can ask questions about a senior’s health status and deny coverage depending on the answers, said Greiner of the Minnesota Board on Aging.
Medigap coverage can be priced in one of three ways: community rating, issue-age rating, or attained-age rating. As of 2018, eight states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington) require carriers to use community rating. The remaining states were simply listed as not requiring community rating, thus leaving it up to the insurer to allow for any rating type, including issue-age or attained-age.