Short Answer: Yes, you can switch from Medicare Advantage (Part C) to a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, but typically only during certain times of the year. For most people, this enrollment period is between October 15th and December 7th (the Annual Election Period).
Outside of the annual election period, there are two other circumstances when you can switch from a Medicare Advantage to a Medicare Supplement plan.
If you’re in your first year of Medicare Advantage, you can switch to a Medicare Supplement plan at any time. Or, if you leave a Medicare Advantage plan for a 5-star Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) during what's known as a 5-star Special Election Period (SEP), you can also add a Medicare Supplement plan.
Generally, if you sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan outside of the first time you become eligible—typically that means buying a policy within six months of enrolling in Medicare Part B—insurers are not legally obligated to sell you a Medicare Supplement plan. Or they may sell you a policy but subject you to medical underwriting, which could result in you paying a much higher premium or having certain pre-existing conditions excluded from coverage (though some states prohibit this practice).
What if you started with a Medicare Supplement plan, switched to Medicare Advantage, and now want to switch back to the plan you had originally?
Your ability to switch depends on a couple of factors:
- The insurer needs to still be offering the same Medicare Supplement plan, which is not always the case. If the plan has been changed or discontinued, or if your medical circumstances have changed, you’ll likely have to choose a different plan.
- That said, if you’ve had Medicare Advantage for less than a year and you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan within 63 days of your coverage ending, insurance companies are required to sell you any Medicare Supplement plan that’s sold in your state. In other words, they cannot deny you coverage because of health problems or pre-existing conditions, or charge you more for your plan. There are other specific situations in which insurance companies must offer you a Medicare Supplement plan.
- One big thing to watch out for: If you’ve had Medicare Advantage for more than a year, or you wait more than 63 days to apply for a Medicare Supplement plan after your Medicare Advantage coverage ends, you could be denied Medicare Supplement coverage.