Original Medicare does not provide coverage for outpatient prescription drugs. More than half of Original Medicare beneficiaries nationwide have supplemental coverage via an employer-sponsored plan (from a current or former employer or spouse’s employer) or Medicaid, and these plans often include prescription coverage. Some Medigap plans that were sold prior to 2006 included coverage for prescription drugs, but sales of those plans ceased as of 2006, when Medicare Part D became available. Part D was created under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
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.
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One of the reasons Medicare Cost has been so popular in Minnesota is that the state has a large population of “snowbirds” — retirees who live in Minnesota during the summer, but head south to warmer climes in the winter. With Medicare Cost plans, the enrollee still has Original Medicare — including the large nationwide network of providers who work with Medicare — in addition to the Medicare Cost coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, in contrast, tend to have localized networks that might not be suitable for a senior who lives in two different states during the year. A Medigap plan plus Original Medicare will allow a person in that situation to have access to health providers in both locations, although Medigap tends to be more expensive than Medicare Advantage. There are pros and cons to both options, and no one-size-fits-all solution.
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.
The federal government paid the full cost of covering the newly-eligible Medicaid population through 2016. Starting in 2017, the state began paying a portion of the cost, but the state’s share will never exceed 10 percent. A few weeks prior to passage, an amendment had been added to HF9 that would allow Medicaid expansion to expire if the federal government ever defaults on its promise to always pay at least 90 percent of the cost of covering the newly-eligible population. But that amendment was removed from the bill prior to passage.
Numerous improvements were made to MNCare effective January 1, 2014. The program no longer has a $1,000 copay for hospitalization, or a $10,000 cap on inpatient benefits. The asset test has been eliminated just as it was for Medicaid, and premiums have been significantly reduced. It used to be available only to applicants who had been uninsured for at least four months, but that provision was eliminated in 2014.
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.
Minnesota also prohibits Medigap insurers from basing premiums on an enrollee’s age. Premiums for Medigap plans in Minnesota only vary based on tobacco use and where the enrollee lives. These rating rules also apply to people who are eligible for Medicare before the age of 65, which is somewhat unusual; most of the states that have guaranteed access to Medigap for under-65 enrollees do allow the insurers to charge those enrollees higher premiums.
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