Health Advice



Medicare enrollment blitz doesn't include options to move into Medigap

Harris Meyer, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Then there are widely varying state rules for how Medigap insurers can price their plans. Eight states bar charging people more because they are older or sicker. The remaining states allow setting premiums based on age, meaning a Medigap policy may well be unaffordable for older seniors.

The situation is worse for the nearly 9 million beneficiaries younger than 65 who qualify for Medicare because of a long-term disability. Just 31 states require insurers to sell a Medigap policy to people in this group.

Members of a subgroup — kidney dialysis patients under 65 — have even more limited access to an affordable Medigap policy. Only 14 states mandate that insurers offer them affordable coverage. Starting last year, the federal government guaranteed them access to Medicare Advantage plans but not to a Medigap policy. But Medicare Advantage plans may not include the providers that dialysis patients need, said Holly Bode, vice president of government affairs at the American Kidney Fund.

Guaranteed access to an affordable Medigap policy is important, consumer advocates say, because beneficiaries who develop serious medical conditions disproportionately want to leave their Medicare Advantage plan for the broader choice of providers available through traditional Medicare.

A Government Accountability Office report in July urged Medicare officials to examine why beneficiaries in their last year of life switched from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare at more than twice the rate of other Medicare Advantage enrollees.


Some legislators are already pushing to revamp the Medigap market. The Close the Medigap Act, recently reintroduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, would ensure that beneficiaries with preexisting conditions could buy a Medigap policy anytime and wouldn’t face higher premiums.

Another House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), would require Medigap insurers to offer the same plans to kidney dialysis patients under 65 that they offer to beneficiaries 65 and up.

Health insurers generally have opposed bills that require them to guarantee coverage or affordable pricing of Medigap plans, arguing that would raise premiums for current policyholders. AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), an industry lobbying group, has taken no position on these two bills.

Neither bill, however, is included in the Democrats’ broad legislative package to expand health and social programs. In a written statement, Doggett expressed disappointment, saying that extending preexisting condition protections to the Medigap market is “one of the important pieces of unfinished business remaining from the Affordable Care Act.”

©2021 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.