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Ask Ms. Medicare

What to Do if Your Current Medicare Plan Won't Exist Next Year

Don't worry, you still have choices

How will you know which category applies to you?  If you fall into one of the last two groups above, you should have received a letter from your plan by October 1 saying that your current plan will not exist next year and explaining your options. If you fall into the first group, you should have received an Annual Notice of Change in September explaining all changes in costs and benefits for next year. If you can’t remember receiving a letter, or can’t find it, call your plan at the customer service number provided on your plan membership card.

Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap)

It doesn't happen often, but from time to time medigap insurers go out of business or stop selling medigap policies in some areas. This is a cause of considerable anxiety to people who hold these policies because many believe that if they have to buy a new policy, they will lose the federal guarantees and protections they had before. But that's not true.

What you can do: If you lose medigap coverage through no fault of your own, you still have the right to buy policies A, B, C, F, K or L from any medigap insurer in your state with full federal protections. This means that an insurer cannot deny you coverage or require you to pay a higher premium based on your health status or preexisting medical conditions. But to receive those guarantees, you must apply for a new policy within 63 days of the end of your old coverage. To be on the safe side, it's best to apply before your current coverage runs out.

To compare Medigap policies available to you, and for contact information of insurers that sell them, go to the Medicare website, click on "Compare Medigap Policies" and enter your zip code. For more information, see the official publication "Choosing a Medigap Policy."

Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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