People who aren’t yet 65 can enroll in Medicare if they’re disabled and have been receiving disability benefits for at least two years, and 13 percent of Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries are under age 65. Federal rules do not guarantee access to Medigap plans for people who are under 65, but the majority of the states — including Minnesota — have implemented rules to ensure that disabled Medicare beneficiaries have at least some access to Medigap plans. Minnesota law grants a six-month open enrollment period to anyone who enrolls in Medicare Part B, regardless of age (federal rules only grant this window to people who enroll in Part B and are also at least 65 years old).
Private Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to Original Medicare. There are pros and cons to either option, and the right solution is different for each person. Plan availability varies by county, but Minnesota’s market is robust: Residents throughout the state can select from among at least 13 Advantage plans in 2019, and some counties have as many as 40 plans for sale.
A “Welcome to Medicare” packet is mailed out a few months before you turn 65. If you are not yet 65 but receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, or receive certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, then you become eligible for Medicare as soon as you enter into the 25th straight month of receiving those benefits.
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.
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.
The legislation that introduced Medicare Advantage also created a competition clause that banned Medicare Cost plans from operating in areas where they faced substantial competition from Medicare Advantage plans, but the implementation of the competition clause was delayed for many years. In 2015, legislation (MACRA) called for the competition clause to be implemented as of 2019.
Minnesota had some of the country’s most generous eligibility guidelines for Medicaid prior to expansion under the ACA (up to 100 percent of poverty for adults with dependent children, and up to 75 percent of poverty for those without dependent children). And the state also became the first in the nation to establish a Basic Health Program under the ACA.
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 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.
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.
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.
Local HMO plans may require referrals to see a specialist, but some Local HMO Medicare Advantage plans include a point-of-service self-referral option, which gives you some flexibility with going to out-of-network providers. Point-of-Service (POS) plans have an option that allows visits to out-of-network providers at an additional cost. If the POS plan offers Medicare Part D coverage, enrollees must get it from the POS plan. If you enroll in a stand alone plan, you will be disenrolled from the Local HMO Medicare Advantage plan.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.

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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.
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.
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