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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The program for Qualified Individuals (QI) also pays for Part B premiums, though the application approval and benefits are on a “first come, first served” basis. This is sometimes due to limited funding. For an individual to qualify for the QI program, their income must be less than $1,386 a month. The combined income limit for a married couple is $1,872.
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.
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.
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. 

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.
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. 

The state was the first to participate in a demonstration program to pilot Medicare Cost plans in the 1970s, and the plans have remained popular over the decades. They didn’t catch on in many other states, however, and Medicare + Choice came on the national scene in the 1990s, replaced by Medicare Advantage in 2003 (there are still Medicare Cost plans in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, but their total enrollment was only about a third of the 625,072 people who had Medicare Cost plans in 2018 — the other two-thirds were in Minnesota).
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