You should always compare your Medicare insurance options before the Annual Election Period because plans change. It’s critically important to anticipate likely changes to Minnesota Medicare Advantage plans in 2019 for one important reason. While nothing has been finalized as of this article, it’s likely that the government will reduce or eliminate Medicare Cost Plans within many counties of this state.


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 

The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) may be helpful for seniors seeking a wide range of information. The office provides education in a broad range of areas, including health-care coverage and Medicare plans. The office was first established in 1956. Since that time, seniors have been able to turn to the Minnesota Board of Aging for a variety of programs, including:
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.
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.
Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. But younger Americans gain Medicare eligibility after they have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months, or have ALS or end-stage renal disease. Thirteen percent of Minnesota’s Medicare beneficiaries were under age 65 as of 2017, versus 16 percent nationwide. On the high and low ends of the spectrum, 23 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi are under 65, while just 9 percent of Hawaii’s Medicare beneficiaries are eligible due to disability.

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.


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Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in a Preferred Provider Organization are able to see providers outside of their plan’s network, often at a higher cost. Beneficiaries in this type of plan typically pay less out of pocket if they choose to receive medical services from providers within their plan’s network. PPO plans typically do not require patients to acquire a referral before visiting with a specialist.
The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) may be helpful for seniors seeking a wide range of information. The office provides education in a broad range of areas, including health-care coverage and Medicare plans. The office was first established in 1956. Since that time, seniors have been able to turn to the Minnesota Board of Aging for a variety of programs, including:
Original Medicare does not provide coverage for outpatient prescription drugs. More than half of Original Medicare beneficiaries nationwide have supplemental coverage via an employer-sponsored plan (from a current or former employer or spouse’s employer) or Medicaid, and these plans often include prescription coverage. Some Medigap plans that were sold prior to 2006 included coverage for prescription drugs, but sales of those plans ceased as of 2006, when Medicare Part D became available. Part D was created under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
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 of 2018, there were 370,000 Medicare Cost plan enrollees in Minnesota, but most of them had to switch to new plans (either Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare) for 2019. This is described in more detail below, but Minnesota’s enrollment in private Medicare plans could end up fluctuating significantly for 2019, depending on how many of those enrollees opted to have coverage under Original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage.
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