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.
As a result, an estimated 320,000 Medicare Cost enrollees in Minnesota needed new coverage for 2019. There are 21 counties where Medicare Cost plans continue to be available, but Medicare Cost enrollees in the rest of the state were not able to keep their Cost plans. Instead, they had the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (some were automatically enrolled in a comparable Medicare Advantage plan, although they had an option to pick something else instead), or select a Medigap plan to supplement their Original Medicare. Enrollees whose Medicare Cost plans ended have guaranteed issue rights to a Medigap plan, so they can purchase one even if they had pre-existing medical conditions. But that guaranteed-issue right only lasts for 63 days, which means Monday, March 4, 2019 is the last day these individuals can purchase a Medigap plan without having to go through medical underwriting.
As is the case nationwide, enrollment in private Medicare plans grew in Minnesota in 2018. As of December 2018, there were 581,822 Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries with private Medicare coverage, which amounts to nearly 58 percent of the state’s Medicare population. Nationwide, most people with private Medicare plans are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, but Medicare Cost plans are another type of private Medicare coverage, and as of 2018, Minnesota residents accounted for two-thirds of the national total enrollment in Medicare Cost plans.
*This is an estimation based on user provided data and may vary if more information is provided to the Benefit Advisor. Coverage recommendations are not an endorsement of any specific health plan or insurance carrier. This is not a guarantee of actual costs, but just an approximation to assist you in shopping for medical and prescription drug insurance.
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.
On September 12, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new partnership with the State of Minnesota to test new ways of improving care for Medicare-Medicaid enrollees. Building on the state's Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) program, CMS and Minnesota will work together to improve the beneficiary experience in health plans that maintain contracts with both CMS as Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans and with the state to deliver Medicaid services.   

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Surprisingly, a large percentage of these new enrollees were not newly eligible. In fact, they had always been eligible, they just were not well-versed on the topic of “What are the Medicaid application guidelines?” Enrollment figures shrunk from 1,066,787 to 1,019,309 by August 2015, before creeping back up to 1,026,023 in July the following year.
How much does Medicaid cost in Minnesota? Full Medicaid coverage is granted to certain qualified patients, while others may be required to pay fees in the forms of deductibles or co-pays for certain Medicaid services. And, while what is covered by Medicaid means little-to-no-cost for beneficiaries, there are some medical services that are considered what is not covered by Medicaid in MN. How much is Medicaid when a health service is not handled by the government? Medicaid cost estimates vary depending on the patient and types of Medicaid insurance… Read More
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.
If you have more than one type of coverage, including MA, employer-sponsored coverage, Veterans (VA) health benefits, military (TRICARE) benefits, or any other health coverage, one coverage may pay for costs that your other coverage doesn't pay for, meaning you have to pay less out of your own pocket. If you are in this situation, make sure you understand how Medicare interacts with other types of coverage.
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.

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.


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.
Medicaid coverage may be different from one state to another. Though they must comply with federal regulations, every state runs its own program; the federal government does not control it. Some information about Medicaid is true in every state. For instance, in Minnesota Medicaid covers some services that are not covered other states. Other states may cover services Minnesota does not. In addition, the costs may be different; not every beneficiary of Health Link in Minnesota will pay the same monthly premium. Certain low-income Medicaid insurance beneficiaries could pay no premiums at all if they qualify for no-cost coverage.
If you are worried that an HMO or PPO plan will try to limit your care, Medicare Advantage is not the only way to get full coverage. For a little more each month you can have the best care available and lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Savvy seniors hold on to their Original Medicare and get the additional coverage they need with a Minnesota Medicare Part D Plan (prescriptions) and Minnesota Medicare Supplement Insurance.
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.
Unlike Medical Assistance, MNCare has a small monthly premium that ranges as high as $80, but calculated on a sliding scale and not applicable to some enrollees. The preferred enrollment method is through MNsure. Like Medical Assistance, enrollment in MinnesotaCare is open year-round. By September 2016, average monthly enrollment in MinnesotaCare was a little over 100,000. As of 2015, a quarter of the insureds were new enrollees, while the rest were already on MinnesotaCare in 2014.
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MA plans feature a network of doctors and hospitals that enrollees must use to get the maximum payment, whereas supplements tend to provide access to a broader set of health care providers, said Shawnee Christenson, an insurance agent with Crosstown Insurance in New Hope. While that might sound good to beneficiaries, supplements can come with significantly higher premiums, Christenson said.
Every Medicare beneficiary in the Twin Cities metro area who is currently enrolled in a Medicare Cost Planwill have their plan end on December 31, 2018.  You will need to take action to enroll in new Medicare coverage for 2019. The phaseout of Medicare Cost Plans has been decades in the making due to the high expense of administering the plans. The decision to end the plans was signed into law more than twenty-years ago as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Since then, there have been several extensions of Medicare Cost Plans. Most recently, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) extended Medicare Cost Plans through 2018 for most counties in Minnesota. 

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans: One of the most popular types of managed-care plans, this type of Medicare Advantage plan comes with a provider network that you must use to be covered by the plan (with the exception of medical emergencies). If you use non-network providers, you may have to pay the full cost for your care. You’re also required to have a primary care physician; if you need to see a specialist, you’ll need to a get a referral from your primary care doctor first.
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.

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.
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.
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.

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.


In February 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed HF9, a bill that expanded access to Medicaid Assistance (Minnesota’s Medicaid program) under the ACA. News reports in 2013 widely reported that Medicaid expansion was expected to provide health coverage for 35,000 newly-eligible Minnesota residents. But Families USA projected estimated in April 2017 that 222,900 people were enrolled in Medicaid in Minnesota due to expansion.
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.
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