1) Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B) covers benefits on a fee-for-service basis and is managed by the federal government. This option offers the ability to add a Medicare supplemental policy to help pay your share of the out-of-pocket costs (deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments) of Medicare-covered services.  Also, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can be purchased.
Private Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to Original Medicare. There are pros and cons to either option, and the right solution is different for each person. Plan availability varies by county, but Minnesota’s market is robust: Residents throughout the state can select from among at least 13 Advantage plans in 2019, and some counties have as many as 40 plans for sale.
You should always compare your Medicare insurance options before the Annual Election Period because plans change. It’s critically important to anticipate likely changes to Minnesota Medicare Advantage plans in 2019 for one important reason. While nothing has been finalized as of this article, it’s likely that the government will reduce or eliminate Medicare Cost Plans within many counties of this state.
As an alternative to obtaining Original Medicare coverage directly from the government, you may want to consider Medicare Advantage (sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C) in Minnesota. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with CMS to provide all Original Medicare benefits except hospice care, which is paid by Medicare Part A. Many Medicare Advantage plans also include extra benefits such as routine dental and vision care.
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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.
The most significant change to the Medicare program, since its enactment in 1965, began on Jan. 1, 2006. Medicare now has a prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D). In the fall of each year, all Minnesotans with Medicare receive information about the Medicare Part D program and the Annual Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. Agencies, organizations and people that work with Minnesotans with Medicare will want to be kept apprised of the latest Part D information and its effect on Minnesotans with Medicare.
Private insurance companies must have contracts with Medicare to offer Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. Depending on the terms of the contract between the plan and Medicare, not every plan is available statewide or in all service areas. Each year, the plan must renew its contract with Medicare, so the availability of a plan in a specific service area is subject to change.
Of the more than 300,000 people losing their Cost plans in Minnesota, it’s likely that roughly 100,000 people will be automatically enrolled into a comparable plan with their current insurer, Corson said, unless they make another selection. Details haven’t been finalized, he said. That likely will leave another 200,000 people, he said, who will need to be proactive to obtain new replacement Medicare coverage.
Medicare Advantage is a PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage depends on contract renewal. Enrollment in the plan after December 31, 2018 cannot be guaranteed. Either CMS or the plan may choose not to renew the contract, or the plan may choose to change the area it serves. Any such change may result in termination of your enrollment. Benefits, premiums, copayments and/or coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year. The formulary, pharmacy network and/or provider network may change at any time. You will receive notice when necessary.
We have worked with two of Minnesota’s most respected health care companies to bring you two new Medicare Advantage plan options for 2019. Our new plans are set up in an accountable care model: an extra level of coordination between these insurers and our health system to ensure quality coverage, great value, and an exceptional experience. Both plans offer two coverage options to give consumers more choice. Learn more about these plans:
Medical Assistance (Medicaid) coverage is available for adults if household income does not exceed 138 percent of poverty (MinnesotaCare, with a small monthly premium, is available for those with income up to 200 percent of poverty), for infants with household income up to 283 percent of poverty, for children 1 – 18 with household incomes up to 275 percent of poverty, and for pregnant women with household incomes up to 278 percent of poverty.
A Special Needs Plan is a type of Medicare Advantage plan limited to people with certain chronic conditions and  other specific characteristics. Typically, you must receive care from health care providers and hospitals within your SNP network, except for in cases when you need emergency or urgent care and when someone who has End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) needs out-of-area kidney dialysis.
The Medicare-Choices email list is designed to help health insurance counselors, volunteers, attorneys, providers, consumers or other interested parties find resources, receive up-to-date information about Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage, Medical Assistance, Minnesota Long-term Care Partnership or other related public or private benefits.
In the fall of 2013, prior to the launch of the ACA’s exchanges, Minnesota’s total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment stood at 873,040. There were 144,481 new Medicaid enrollments through MNsure, the state-run exchange, from October 2013 through April 2014, and total enrollment in Minnesota’s Medicaid program had grown to 1,066,787 by August 2014, an increase of more than 22 percent over the enrollment total prior to October 2013. Many of these enrollees were already eligible prior to 2014, but were not aware of their eligibility.
Private managed care programs for Medicare beneficiaries are particularly popular in Minnesota. Fifty-six percent of all Minnesota Medicare enrollees were enrolled in private Medicare plans in 2017, as opposed to a national average of 33 percent. Minnesota has by far the largest share of its Medicare population enrolled in private plans; the next closest state is Hawaii, where 45 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have private coverage.

Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.


Lawmakers addressed the issue in 2016, amending the state’s existing protocol for Medicaid estate recovery. The state announced that pending federal approval, Medicaid estate recovery in Minnesota would be limited to cases in which long-term care was covered. The state intended to make that change retroactive to January 2014, but CMS did not grant approval for that. Instead, the new rules, which limit estate recovery to long-term care costs, apply to estate claims that were pending as of July 1, 2016, and to the estates of people who die after July 1, 2016.
In the fall of 2013, prior to the launch of the ACA’s exchanges, Minnesota’s total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment stood at 873,040. There were 144,481 new Medicaid enrollments through MNsure, the state-run exchange, from October 2013 through April 2014, and total enrollment in Minnesota’s Medicaid program had grown to 1,066,787 by August 2014, an increase of more than 22 percent over the enrollment total prior to October 2013. Many of these enrollees were already eligible prior to 2014, but were not aware of their eligibility.
Of the more than 300,000 people losing their Cost plans in Minnesota, it’s likely that roughly 100,000 people will be automatically enrolled into a comparable plan with their current insurer, Corson said, unless they make another selection. Details haven’t been finalized, he said. That likely will leave another 200,000 people, he said, who will need to be proactive to obtain new replacement Medicare coverage.
DFL lawmakers and Gov-elect Tim Walz are considering various possibilities for a MinnesotaCare buy-in program that would open the coverage up (for a price) to anyone buying their own coverage, or to people in areas of the state where there are limited plan options available in the individual market. The details haven’t been worked out yet, but this is something to watch in Minnesota in 2019.
What are the income requirements for Medicaid? In the event that an adult’s income exceeds the 135 percent Federal Poverty Level, he or she may sign up for a different kind of care in Minnesota, called MNCare. State tax from Minnesota hospitals and health care providers fund this program, which includes basic health services for people who do not exceed the income requirement for Medicaid in Minnesota.
Prior to the ACA, the vast majority of adults 55 or older who were covered by Medicaid were elderly, low-income residents who needed long-term care (Medicare does not cover long-term care, but Medicaid does if the person’s income and assets are low enough). But starting in 2014, large numbers of residents — many of whom were 55 or older — became eligible for Medicaid, and many were caught off-guard when they found out that leins were being filed against their estates.
Medicare Advantage (also called "Part C") and Medicare Cost plans are ways to get a single combined plan including Parts A, B, and D through a private company. With Medicare Advantage plans, you may have less flexibility, but your costs could be lower. With Medicare Cost plans, you have more flexibility, because you can still use Original Medicare to pay for out-of-network providers.
This website and its contents are for informational purposes only. Nothing on the website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.
DFL lawmakers and Gov-elect Tim Walz are considering various possibilities for a MinnesotaCare buy-in program that would open the coverage up (for a price) to anyone buying their own coverage, or to people in areas of the state where there are limited plan options available in the individual market. The details haven’t been worked out yet, but this is something to watch in Minnesota in 2019.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.
This website and its contents are for informational purposes only. Nothing on the website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.
Private insurance companies must have contracts with Medicare to offer Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. Depending on the terms of the contract between the plan and Medicare, not every plan is available statewide or in all service areas. Each year, the plan must renew its contract with Medicare, so the availability of a plan in a specific service area is subject to change.
Private insurance companies must have contracts with Medicare to offer Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. Depending on the terms of the contract between the plan and Medicare, not every plan is available statewide or in all service areas. Each year, the plan must renew its contract with Medicare, so the availability of a plan in a specific service area is subject to change.
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Original Medicare does not limit out-of-pocket costs, so most enrollees maintain some form of supplemental coverage. Nationwide, more than half of Original Medicare beneficiaries get their supplemental coverage through an employer-sponsored plan or Medicaid. But for those who don’t, Medigap plans (also known as Medicare supplement plans, or MedSupp) will pay some or all of the out-of-pocket costs they would otherwise have to pay if they had only Original Medicare.
Medicare Advantage Plans must cover all of the services that Original Medicare covers except hospice care. Original Medicare covers hospice care even if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan. In all types of Medicare Advantage Plans, you’re always covered for emergency and urgent care. Medicare Advantage Plans must offer emergency coverage outside of the plan’s service area (but not outside the U.S.). Many Medicare Advantage Plans also offer extra benefits such as dental care, eyeglasses, or wellness programs. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). In addition to your Part B premium, you usually pay one monthly premium for the plan’s medical and prescription drug coverage. Plan benefits can change from year to year. Make sure you understand how a plan works before you join. 

According to the Star Tribune, one of the biggest changes happening in Minnesota this year for Medicare recipients may be the reduction in the number of Medicare Cost plans available in your county. Medicare Cost plans are types of Medicare Advantage plans that work like a regular HMO when patients get services inside the network; however, they revert to working like Original Medicare Part A and Part B outside of the plan’s network. This means that beneficiaries can enjoy low costs when they can use a plan doctor, but they will still have their services covered if they need to step outside of the plan’s list of providers.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans: This type of Medicare Advantage plan offers more provider flexibility. PPOs typically have a preferred provider network, but you may also use out-of-network doctors if you choose, although your cost sharing may be higher. Unlike HMOs, you don’t need referrals for specialist care and you aren’t required to have a primary care doctor.


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.
Now that you have an idea of the type of Medicare plan options for Minnesotans, would you like some assistance looking for a plan that fits? I’d be happy to help, and you can click on the “View profile” link below to view my profile if you’d like. How about setting up a phone call with me, or having me send you some information by email? You can click on the links below to do that. Some folks prefer to research plans on their own; you can do that easily by clicking on the Compare Plans option on the right.
Private insurance companies must have contracts with Medicare to offer Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. Depending on the terms of the contract between the plan and Medicare, not every plan is available statewide or in all service areas. Each year, the plan must renew its contract with Medicare, so the availability of a plan in a specific service area is subject to change.
If you don’t want Medicare Advantage, think about a Medigap policy (Medicare Supplement Insurance). If you get Original Medicare, you can pay an extra monthly premium to get a private Medigap policy that covers some of the expenses that Medicare Parts A and B won’t cover, such as co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. Medigap policies do not cover prescription drugs (you need Part D for that). Learn more about Medigap policies or find one in your area.
See whether you would prefer a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans have to offer at least the basic benefits that Original Medicare offers, but some Medicare Advantage plans might also offer coverage for things that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to see if there’s a Medicare Advantage plan that meets your needs.
The state was the first to participate in a demonstration program to pilot Medicare Cost plans in the 1970s, and the plans have remained popular over the decades. They didn’t catch on in many other states, however, and Medicare + Choice came on the national scene in the 1990s, replaced by Medicare Advantage in 2003 (there are still Medicare Cost plans in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, but their total enrollment was only about a third of the 625,072 people who had Medicare Cost plans in 2018 — the other two-thirds were in Minnesota).
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