Blue Cross plans on sending letters in early July notifying about 200,000 subscribers who stand to lose their Medicare Cost plans. Minnetonka-based Medica, which started sending letters last week, expects that about 66,000 members will need to select a new plan. Officials with Bloomington-based HealthPartners say the insurer sent letters to about 34,000 enrollees this month explaining the change.
Medicare Part C, more commonly known as Medicare Advantage, provides another way to receive your Original Medicare benefits. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare.  They are required to cover at least the same benefits as Original Medicare (with the exception of hospice care, which is covered by Part A); they may have other benefits as well. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re still in the Medicare program; however, you will receive and use  a separate membership card, pay a plan premium (if applicable), and claims will be submitted directly to the private insurance company. You’d still pay a monthly premium for Part B.
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.
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.
There are several different Medicaid long-term care programs for which Minnesota seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical eligibility requirements, as well as varying benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the requirements vary with marital status and that Minnesota offers multiple pathways towards Medicaid eligibility.
“What is Medicaid eligibility?” This question may be on your mind if you are new to the program. MN Medicaid eligibility is generally determined by the income level of the individual or household applying for Medical Assistance (MA). Individuals and families that fall within the allowable income range are eligible to receive benefits. In order to qualify for the program all applicants must meet all income and any other requirements.
Medicare Savings Programs help people on Medicare pay for some of their out-of pocket Medicare costs. The costs paid depend upon your income but can include Medicare Part A and B premiums, co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. You need to have countable income that is 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,366/month for an individual, $1,852/month for couples) to qualify for a Medicare Savings Program.
We know how frustrating it can be to navigate all of the Medicare options available to you when you turn 65. We want to help you find the right plan to fit your needs so you can get back to spending your time doing what you enjoy! If you’re new to Medicare or you’re hoping to compare the best Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota, here are a few important things you should know about this year’s open enrollment period.
For Medicaid eligibility purposes, any income that a Medicaid applicant receives is counted. To clarify, this income can come from any source. Examples include employment wages, alimony payments, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, IRA withdrawals, and stock dividends. However, when only one spouse of a married couple is applying for Medicaid, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse is disregarded. (Learn more here about Medicaid and income). For married couples, with non-applicant spouses’ with insufficient income in which to live, there is what is called a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). This is the minimum amount of monthly income to which the non-applicant spouse is entitled, and it allows applicant spouses to transfer a portion of their income to their non-applicant spouses. At the time of this writing, the MMMNA is $2,057.50 / month, which is set to increase again July 2020. However, if shelter costs are high, non-applicant spouses may receive as much as $3,160.50 / month (this figure will not increase again until January 2020) for a spousal allowance. This rule prevents non-applicant spouses from becoming impoverished.
Minnesota Benefit Association, through our insurance administrators,  has helped thousands of Minnesotans make the right Medicare choices. We offer unbiased advice, and have no special allegiance to one insurance company over another. The goal is to get each individual matched with the insurance company and the Medicare plan that is best suited for them.
If you’re still working and/or have coverage through an employer’s or union’s group health plan, you may choose to delay Part B enrollment to avoid paying a premium for benefits you don’t need. You can sign up for Part B later when your coverage ends or you stop working, using a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). You won’t have to pay a Part B penalty if you had health coverage based on current employment (either your own or through your spouse’s employer).
American Indians can continue to use tribal and Indian Health Services (IHS) clinics. We will not require prior approval or impose any conditions for you to get services at these clinics. For elders 65 years and older this includes Elderly Waiver (EW) services accessed through the tribe. If a doctor or other provider in a tribal or IHS clinic refers you to a provider in our network, we will not require you to see your primary care provider prior to the referral.
Medicare Supplement plans, also known as Medigap plans, have higher monthly premiums but they don’t have network restrictions or many out of pocket expenses, if any. The other thing that’s nice about Medicare Supplement plans is that they are renewable every year once you are enrolled. This means that even if your health condition should change, you can’t lose coverage.
Original Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage for individuals 65 years old and older and some individuals with qualifying disabilities under the age of 65. In terms of costs and benefits, Original Medicare coverage in Minnesota works the same way as it does in other states. Under Original Medicare, you’re not limited to using providers in a certain network and can use any provider that accepts Medicare patients. To obtain the full value of your benefits and potentially lower your out-of-pocket expenses for covered services, you’ll want to check and make sure your provider also accepts Medicare assignment—that is, the amount Medicare will pay for a particular service, less any deductible and/or coinsurance you may owe.

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.
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.
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.
Beneficiaries in Minnesota can also choose to get Medicare coverage through private insurance companies. The specific plans and benefits available to you will depend on where you live, since not all plans are offered in every location. If you are looking online for private Medicare plans in Minnesota, always make sure to provide your zip code when comparing plans.
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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.
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.
Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility, there are many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include personal belongings, household furnishings, an automobile, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant or their spouse lives in the home and the equity value is under $585,000 (in 2019). For married couples, as of 2019, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) can retain up to a maximum of $126,420 of the couple’s joint assets, as the chart indicates above. This, in Medicaid terminology, is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
Because Medigap policies are regulated by State and Federal laws, benefits for all options are the same regardless of insurer. The differences will be in the price, who administers the plan, and which of the ten options the insurer chooses to offer. You may want to choose a health insurer that you already feel comfortable with, or you can shop around for the best prices.
Minnesota, with nearly 400,000 seniors enrolled in a Cost Plan, is most affected by this change. Cost Plans have been provided in Minnesota by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Medica and Health Partners. Your advisor and health insurance company are fully aware of the change and over the coming months will answer your questions. If you have a Cost Plan, your insurance company will have a new plan for you, ensuring your health insurance needs are covered in 2019 and beyond.
Have you heard the term “advantage Medicare plan” or “supplement Medicare plan” in the news? Below you’ll find some answers to help you get started. We also offer free informational Medicare workshops throughout the state of Minnesota and free one-on-one meetings with agents where you can ask questions and get personal answers. To attend a seminar or set up an appointment call us toll free at 1-800-507-6778 or send us a message. We are here to help you.
We make every effort to show all available Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans in your service area. However, since our data is provided by Medicare, it is possible that this may not be a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.
Most people enroll in Medicare when they’re first eligible at age 65. You can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period, which begins three months before you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months later. You may qualify before age 65 if you receive disability benefits or have certain conditions, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or end-stage renal disease.
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. 
As a Medicare beneficiary in Minnesota, you have multiple options when it comes to how you receive your coverage. Your choices begin with whether you wish to receive your coverage through Original Medicare Part A and Part B or through Medicare Advantage (Part C). If you decide to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan offered by a Medicare-approved private insurance company, your options will depend on which plans are available in your area.

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.
“What is Medicaid eligibility?” This question may be on your mind if you are new to the program. MN Medicaid eligibility is generally determined by the income level of the individual or household applying for Medical Assistance (MA). Individuals and families that fall within the allowable income range are eligible to receive benefits. In order to qualify for the program all applicants must meet all income and any other requirements.
Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan as an alternative way to get their Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, coverage. Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are available through private insurance companies that contract with Medicare. All Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same level of coverage as Original Medicare, meaning you’ll get the same hospital and medical benefits of Part A and Part B through your Medicare Advantage plan. In addition, some Medicare Advantage plans may also offer additional benefits, such as routine dental, vision, hearing, or prescription drugs.
One of the reasons Medicare Cost has been so popular in Minnesota is that the state has a large population of “snowbirds” — retirees who live in Minnesota during the summer, but head south to warmer climes in the winter. With Medicare Cost plans, the enrollee still has Original Medicare — including the large nationwide network of providers who work with Medicare — in addition to the Medicare Cost coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, in contrast, tend to have localized networks that might not be suitable for a senior who lives in two different states during the year. A Medigap plan plus Original Medicare will allow a person in that situation to have access to health providers in both locations, although Medigap tends to be more expensive than Medicare Advantage. There are pros and cons to both options, and no one-size-fits-all solution.
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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.

1) Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B) covers benefits on a fee-for-service basis and is managed by the federal government. This option offers the ability to add a Medicare supplemental policy to help pay your share of the out-of-pocket costs (deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments) of Medicare-covered services.  Also, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can be purchased. 

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.
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If you are a Minnesota beneficiary and considering enrollment in a Medicare Advantage plan, it is important to compare and evaluate the Medicare plan options available to you. While similar Medicare Advantage plans may be offered throughout the state, the cost for premiums may vary depending on your county of residence. You should also take note that some Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota may offer monthly premiums as low as $0. If your service area offers a Medicare Advantage plan with a $0 premium, keep in mind that the plan may still include other costs besides the premium, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. In addition, you must still pay your Medicare Part B premium.
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. 

MA plans often include dental, vision and health-club benefits that aren’t part of many supplements. Yet people who buy a supplement have the option of buying “stand-alone” Part D prescription drug coverage from any one of several insurers — a feature touted as one of the selling points for Cost plans, too. People in MA plans, by contrast, are limited to Part D plans sold by their MA carrier, Christenson said.
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.
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