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.
In addition to Medical Assistance Medicaid, the state also provides Minnesota Care (MNCare) for residents with incomes above 138 percent of poverty, up to 200 percent of poverty. MNCare has existed in Minnesota since 1992, but it became a much more robust program in 2014. And as of January 2015, MinnesotaCare transitioned to a Basic Health Program under the ACA. BHPs are a provision of the ACA that any state can implement, but Minnesota was the only state to do so for 2015. New York has now also established a BHP, effective January 2016.
A Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) can help pay your prescription drug costs. Designed to work alongside Original Medicare coverage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare and doing business in Minnesota. You can also enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include Part D prescription drug coverage in its benefits.
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.
In all but three states, Medigap plans are standardized under federal rules. But Minnesota is one of three states that have federal waivers that allow the state to do its own Medigap standardization. So instead of the ten Medigap plans (A through N) that are marketed in most states, Minnesota Medigap plans include Basic, Basic with riders, Extended Basic, and Medigap plans F, K, L, M, and N. There are also Medicare Select Medigap plans in Minnesota, just as there are in other states.
Before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, it’s a good idea to check that the formulary includes your prescription medications; the formulary is a list of prescription medications covered by the plan. Formularies vary by plan, and not every medication is covered by every Medicare plan, so it’s important to double check. Keep in mind that formularies are subject to change. The formulary may change at any time. You will receive notice from your plan when necessary.
Minnesota law prevents Medigap insurers from imposing pre-existing condition waiting periods if the enrollee signs up during their initial six-month open enrollment window. For those who apply after that, Medigap insurers are not allowed to impose pre-existing condition waiting periods if the enrollee wasn’t diagnosed or treated for the condition in the 90 days prior to enrolling in the Medigap plan.
“What are the income requirements for Medicaid in MN?” will probably be a question on your mind ahead of the application stage. Coverage up to 200% FPL is available under Medicaid expansion and MNCare. Nine health organizations across the state supply coverage through this specific program and by learning how to qualify for Medicaid in Minnesota, newly eligible residents can enroll in the program. Recipients must know the Medicaid eligibility requirements to take advantage of the benefits administered by state governments.
Even when you enroll in Medicare, your out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays can be significant. This is especially true in Minnesota where health insurance premiums vary based on location and population density. It is important to consider options that can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Medicare supplements (also known as Medigap), Medicare managed-care style health plans (Advantage and Cost plans) and Part D plans can provide you the coverage and protection you may need. These additional plans must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Insurance, so you can rest assured that all plans meet the established criteria.
Prior to 2014, Medical Assistance in Minnesota was available to parents with dependent children if their household income was up to 100 percent of poverty, and to adults without dependent children if their household income was up to 75 percent of poverty. Minnesota was already very progressive in providing Medicaid access for most of the state’s low-income population – in many states there was no coverage at all for childless non-disabled adults prior to 2014, and in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the ACA, there still isn’t.
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 addition, both Minnesota Medigap plans and Medicare plans usually come with a package of membership benefits. These extra benefits may help members save money on such non-Medicare expenses as memberships to fitness clubs, dental care, glasses, and even over-the-counter vitamins and medicine. These membership benefits aren’t insurance, but they may offer the same sort of discounts that people enjoy when they have to pay for in-network services with insurance.
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.

You’re eligible for Medicare if you’re age 65 or older, receiving disability benefits, or have certain conditions, like end-stage renal disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). You must be either a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident of at least five years. In some instances, you may not have to take any action in order to enroll. This may happen if you’re turning 65 and already receive Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
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 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.

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. 
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