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.
For some services, you pay a deductible, copayment, or co-insurance before Medicare begins to help pay for that service. For Medicare Part B or Part D, or for Medicare Advantage or Medicare Cost plans, you may have to pay a monthly premium, unless you qualify to get help paying for your Medicare premiums, copayments, and deductibles through MA, a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), or the Low Income Subsidy (LIS).
If you are a Minnesota beneficiary and considering enrollment in a Medicare Advantage plan, it is important to compare and evaluate the Medicare plan options available to you. While similar Medicare Advantage plans may be offered throughout the state, the cost for premiums may vary depending on your county of residence. You should also take note that some Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota may offer monthly premiums as low as $0. If your service area offers a Medicare Advantage plan with a $0 premium, keep in mind that the plan may still include other costs besides the premium, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. In addition, you must still pay your Medicare Part B premium.
Without the flexibility of Medicare Cost plans, state residents might turn to an Basic or an Extended Basic Supplement plan in Minnesota. Insurers may charge more for a Minnesota Medigap plan, but, many times they have more thorough coverage. Minnesota Medigap plans will pay for almost all covered services, so some recipients may end up saving money anyway.

People who qualify for both Medicare and MA coverage are called “dual eligibles.” Most dual eligibles do not have to pay Medicare premiums, because either MA pays them or because the person also qualifies for a Medicare Savings Program (MSP). MA, including Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD), may also help pay for Medicare co-insurance and deductibles, as well as some services Medicare doesn’t cover. That’s why you shouldn’t decline Medicare Parts B or D if you also qualify for MA.
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.

Final decisions haven’t been made on exactly which counties in Minnesota will lose Cost plans next year, the government said. But based on current figures, insurance companies expect that Cost plans are going away in 66 counties across the state including those in the Twin Cities metro. They are expected to continue in 21 counties, carriers said, plus North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
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.
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.
Original Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage for individuals 65 years old and older and some individuals with qualifying disabilities under the age of 65. In terms of costs and benefits, Original Medicare coverage in Minnesota works the same way as it does in other states. Under Original Medicare, you’re not limited to using providers in a certain network and can use any provider that accepts Medicare patients. To obtain the full value of your benefits and potentially lower your out-of-pocket expenses for covered services, you’ll want to check and make sure your provider also accepts Medicare assignment—that is, the amount Medicare will pay for a particular service, less any deductible and/or coinsurance you may owe.
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.
You can have a Medicare Advantage plan that is integrated with MA coverage. These plans include all the coverage that Medicare Parts A, B, and D offer plus what MA covers. They are called Special Needs Plans (SNP) plans if you are 18 – 64 years old; Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) if you are 65 or older. With these plans, there’s less paperwork (you only have one insurance card) and you don’t have to worry so much about which of your benefits pays for which medical services. They also offer care coordination as a core part of the plan.
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. 

It’s been well known that most Medicare Cost plans in Minnesota would be expiring in 2019. Why are Medicare Cost Plans in Minnesota expiring? The simplest answer is, to simplify the options available to you, the consumer. Although some seniors will be able to keep their Cost Plan, Minnesotans in about 66 counties will have to choose either a Medigap Plan or a Medicare Advantage plan this year to replace their Cost Plan.
One of the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) is for Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMB). The QMB program covers the premiums for Medicare Part A and Part B. The deductibles, copays, and coinsurance costs are covered as well. An individual can qualify for this program with an income of no more than $1,032 a month. A married couple can also qualify with a combined income of less than $1,392 a month.
If you are enrolled in a Medicare plan with Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible for financial Extra Help to assist with the payment of your prescription drug premiums and drug purchases. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, call: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov; the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY users should call, 1-800-325-0778; or your state Medicaid Office.
If you wish to start comparing Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota today, eHealth has a plan finder tool on this page that makes it easy to find plan options in your location. Simply enter your zip code to see available Medicare plan options; you can also enter your current prescription drugs to help narrow your search to Medicare plans that cover your medications.
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.
Medicare Part C, more commonly known as Medicare Advantage, provides another way to receive your Original Medicare benefits. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare.  They are required to cover at least the same benefits as Original Medicare (with the exception of hospice care, which is covered by Part A); they may have other benefits as well. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re still in the Medicare program; however, you will receive and use  a separate membership card, pay a plan premium (if applicable), and claims will be submitted directly to the private insurance company. You’d still pay a monthly premium for Part B.
We know how frustrating it can be to navigate all of the Medicare options available to you when you turn 65. We want to help you find the right plan to fit your needs so you can get back to spending your time doing what you enjoy! If you’re new to Medicare or you’re hoping to compare the best Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota, here are a few important things you should know about this year’s open enrollment period.
Need help paying your Medicare deductibles, copayments and coinsurance? A Medigap Supplement insurance policy  helps pay for some of the cost that Original Medicare does not cover. There can be substantial ‘gaps’ in what Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) pays for and many people choose to cover these gaps with a Medicare Supplement policy. Medicare Supplement plans do not cover your prescription drug costs.
The program for Qualified Individuals (QI) also pays for Part B premiums, though the application approval and benefits are on a “first come, first served” basis. This is sometimes due to limited funding. For an individual to qualify for the QI program, their income must be less than $1,386 a month. The combined income limit for a married couple is $1,872.
HealthPocket is a free information source designed to help consumers find medical coverage. Whether you are looking for Medicare, Medicaid or an individual health insurance plan, we will help you find the right healthcare option and save on your out of pocket healthcare costs. We receive our data from government, non-profit and private sources, and you should confirm key provisions of your coverage with your selected health plan. If you select a plan presented on our site, you will be directed (via a click or a call) to one of our partners who can help you with your application. Our website is not a health insurance agency and not affiliated with and does not represent or endorse any health plan. HealthPocket, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Health Plan Intermediaries Holdings LLC (NASDAQ: HIIQ)
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.
While all Medicare Advantage plans must provide all benefits of Original Medicare, plans can include different additional benefits depending on the private health insurer that offers it. Some plans might have a lower deductible and your share of the remaining costs might also be lower. Your Medicare Advantage plan may even cover certain health care services that Original Medicare does not cover like eye exams, hearing aids, dental care or health care received while traveling outside the United States.
You can have a Medicare Advantage plan that is integrated with MA coverage. These plans include all the coverage that Medicare Parts A, B, and D offer plus what MA covers. They are called Special Needs Plans (SNP) plans if you are 18 – 64 years old; Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) if you are 65 or older. With these plans, there’s less paperwork (you only have one insurance card) and you don’t have to worry so much about which of your benefits pays for which medical services. They also offer care coordination as a core part of the plan.
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.
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Beneficiaries in Minnesota can also choose to get Medicare coverage through private insurance companies. The specific plans and benefits available to you will depend on where you live, since not all plans are offered in every location. If you are looking online for private Medicare plans in Minnesota, always make sure to provide your zip code when comparing plans.


It’s important to note that Minnesota has a Medicaid Look-Back Period. This is a period of 60 months (5 years) that dates back from one’s Medicaid application date. During this time frame, Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were sold or given away under fair market value. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a period of Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.
To enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you must have Part A and/or Part B and live in the service area of a plan that provides drug coverage. It’s important to sign up for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage as soon as you’re eligible. Unless you have creditable prescription drug coverage (that is, prescription drug coverage that is at least as good as Medicare Part D), you may have to pay a Part D late enrollment penalty if you sign up later with a Medicare plan that offers prescription drug coverage.

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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.
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