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.


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.
If you have questions you should call the Senior LinkAge Line – a trusted, unbiased resource sponsored by the Minnesota Board on Aging.  The Senior LinkAge Line can help you navigate the Medicare plan choices for 2019 so you can select the option that best meets your healthcare coverage needs.  All Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to review their Medicare health and prescription drug coverage during open enrollment in the fall.
From Oct. 1 through March 31, we take calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, seven days a week. You’ll speak with a representative. From April 1 to Sept. 30, call us 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday to speak with a representative. On Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays, you can leave a message and we’ll get back to you within one business day.
One way to receive your Medicare Coverage is by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO). Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans” are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. It’s important to remember Medicare Advantage Plans are not Medicare Supplements (Medigap). These plans will provide coverage for your approved Medicare Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical) coverage. Many of the Medicare Advantage plans will have a network of contracted providers and facilities. It’s important to understand how the network functions and to be sure the plan you choose contracts with the providers you want to use. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send a flat monthly rate to the insurance companies while you are enrolled in their plan. That money is sent whether you have claims or not. Check out our FAQ for a full breakdown of Medicare plans.

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.
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.
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.
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. 

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.
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.
Medicare Part D is optional prescription drug coverage. If you have Original Medicare, you can get this coverage through a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, offered through private Medicare-approved insurance companies. These plans offer stand-alone prescription drug coverage that work alongside Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. A Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan also provides the Medicare Part D benefit, covering all Medicare benefits under a single plan.
Other types of Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota have different sets of basic benefits. Some have deductibles of their own, while some may pay at least part of the Medicare Part B deductible. Every Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota either covers at least part of the Part A deductible, or lets you add a “rider” on the policy for this purpose at an additional cost.
Medicare Part D is optional prescription drug coverage. This coverage is only available through Medicare-approved private insurers and doesn’t automatically come with Original Medicare. If you have Original Medicare, you can add on this coverage by signing up with a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. You’ll  probably pay a separate plan premium for a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, as well as additional costs like copayments and deductibles. You can’t enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you have a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, or you’ll be automatically disenrolled from Medicare Advantage and returned to Original Medicare.

Medigap plans can be considered when looking for an alternative to Medicare Advantage plans for 2019.  Unlike the no monthly premium or low premium option that you might be used to with Medicare Part C plans in Minnesota, you will have to pay for a Supplement plan. Your plan will make healthcare costs more affordable in the long run, however. This is because your chosen insurance company will pay most of the expenses like deductibles and coinsurances of Original Medicare Part A and B.
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.
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.
The choice of all Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or Part D plans can vary a lot by county even within Minnesota. We make it easy to find local providers with our online quote forms. You can get an instant, online list of Medicare insurance providers by choosing Minnesota from the drop-down box on the quote form right here on this page. Get ready for the Annual Election Period by starting your comparison today.

This part of your Medicare benefits is optional and you will pay a separate monthly fee for it. Medicare Part D is offered through private insurance companies and the monthly fee varies among insurers. You will share in the costs of your prescription drugs according to the specific plan you enrolled in. Those costs can include a deductible, a flat copay amount, or a percentage of the full drug cost (called “coinsurance”).
The Minnesota Department of Commerce: provides beneficiaries with information about Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans and other insurance options available to them. The office is a resource for information about protection from Medicare fraud and how to report fraud. Additional links are included for federal offices that deal with Medicare and brochures that explain how to enroll in Part D Prescription Drug Plans. This government office also offers downloads of premium guides for supplemental plans available to current Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota.

One way to receive your Medicare Coverage is by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO). Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans” are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. It’s important to remember Medicare Advantage Plans are not Medicare Supplements (Medigap). These plans will provide coverage for your approved Medicare Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical) coverage. Many of the Medicare Advantage plans will have a network of contracted providers and facilities. It’s important to understand how the network functions and to be sure the plan you choose contracts with the providers you want to use. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send a flat monthly rate to the insurance companies while you are enrolled in their plan. That money is sent whether you have claims or not. Check out our FAQ for a full breakdown of Medicare plans.


One way to receive your Medicare Coverage is by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO). Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans” are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. It’s important to remember Medicare Advantage Plans are not Medicare Supplements (Medigap). These plans will provide coverage for your approved Medicare Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical) coverage. Many of the Medicare Advantage plans will have a network of contracted providers and facilities. It’s important to understand how the network functions and to be sure the plan you choose contracts with the providers you want to use. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send a flat monthly rate to the insurance companies while you are enrolled in their plan. That money is sent whether you have claims or not. Check out our FAQ for a full breakdown of Medicare plans.
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.
Other types of Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota have different sets of basic benefits. Some have deductibles of their own, while some may pay at least part of the Medicare Part B deductible. Every Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota either covers at least part of the Part A deductible, or lets you add a “rider” on the policy for this purpose at an additional cost.
Medicare MSA Plans combine a high deductible Medicare Advantage Plan and a trust or custodial savings account (as defined and/or approved by the IRS). The plan deposits money from Medicare into the account. You can use this money to pay for your health care costs, but only Medicare-covered expenses count toward your deductible. The amount deposited is usually less than your deductible amount, so you generally have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage begins. 

A couple of major insurers have already announced new plans to replace Minnesota Cost Plans in certain counties. Typically, these new plans offer broader network coverage within an HMO. One major carrier expects about 200,000 of their Minnesota customers to lose access to a Cost Plan. On the other hand, this change may open opportunities for other companies to expand their own market shares with Minnesota Medicare Advantage plans that can offer greater flexibility, such as PPOs with nationwide networks.
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.
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.
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.
HealthPartners is committed to helping you be your best, every day. That’s why we work with partners to help you get the care and coverage you need. We have a partnership in Iowa and Illinois with UnityPoint Health. We also have a partnership in North Dakota and South Dakota with Sanford Health. And we have a collaboration in Wisconsin with Bellin Health, ThedaCare and others through Robin with HealthPartners.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce: provides beneficiaries with information about Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans and other insurance options available to them. The office is a resource for information about protection from Medicare fraud and how to report fraud. Additional links are included for federal offices that deal with Medicare and brochures that explain how to enroll in Part D Prescription Drug Plans. This government office also offers downloads of premium guides for supplemental plans available to current Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota.
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.
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.
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. 
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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