Older couple on a scooter.

Still Time to Switch From Medicare Advantage Back to Original Medicare With Medigap

Originally Published in the Pope County Tribune, March 11, 2019

Remember last fall when private health insurers were dangling extra benefits in front of roughly 1 million Minnesotans on Medicare who were thrust into having to choose between a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare with Medigap plan?

Those on Medicare who chose a Medicare Advantage plan that isn’t living up to expectations still have options, it was reported recently.

A federal law forced more than 300,000 Medicare-aged Minnesotans to find new Medicare supplemental coverage because the Medicare cost plans ended in January 2019. Those consumers faced a choice between enrolling in a Medicare Advantage health plan sold by private insurance companies or coverage through the original Medicare program run by the federal government. Many, if not most, who opted for the original Medicare, also purchased a “Medigap” supplement policy, plus a Part D prescription drug plan, both of which are sold by private insurers.

Many insurance companies, however, offered incentives to get people to sign up for the Medicare Advantage plans, including low or zero premiums.

The Medigap supplements that go with the original Medicare program tend to have higher premiums than the Medicare Advantage plans, but they also can provide broader and easier access to doctors and hospitals and often come with less co-pay for doctor or hospital visits or care procedures, according to information recently reported in the StarTribune.

There’s still time to switch

Those who did chose a Medicare Advantage plan from private insurers can still change back to the original Medicare program with Medigap, but they need to do so by March 31, according to information published in the StarTribune. To make a change, consumers need to contact the insurance agent and tell them that they want to switch from the Medicare Advantage plan to the traditional Medicare with a supplement (Medigap) plan, according to information from a senior advocacy group.

What is a Medicare supplement insurance plans, also called Medigap?

This policy is sold by private insurance companies to fill in some of the “gaps” in original Medicare, Part A and Part B, coverage. Depending on the plan, consumers may be able to get help with the deductible, premium, and copayment cost sharing.

What is the Medicare Advantage plan?

Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, makes it possible for people with Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) to receive their Medicare benefits in an alternative way. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare.

Which is the better choice: signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan or original Medicare?

There isn’t a simple answer because Medicare Advantage plans have key features that many people find attractive and other characteristics that may not match with personal preferences, areas and/or lifestyle, according to ehealthmedicare.com.

Once a plan is chosen, enrollees can leave a plan only at certain times of the year, including during the open enrollment period that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 every year. In addition, consumers can switch to Medicare Advantage plans or switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, according to elderlawanswers.com.

Medicare can be complicated, but the Minnesota Board on Aging can help.

Anyone who needs assistance understanding options, has questions about Medicare or other senior-related issues, like prescription drug expenses, transportation and other services that can help residents remain independent in the community, can call the Minnesota Board on Aging’s Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433 or visit MinnesotaHelp.info® to chat with a Senior LinkAge Line® specialist.