Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers in Minnesota can receive free, confidential, and unbiased one-on-one health insurance counseling through the State Health Insurance and Assistance Program (SHIP). Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is another program which aims to empower seniors to identify, help prevent, and report instances of Medicare waste, fraud and/or abuse.
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.
The most significant change to the Medicare program, since its enactment in 1965, began on Jan. 1, 2006. Medicare now has a prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D). In the fall of each year, all Minnesotans with Medicare receive information about the Medicare Part D program and the Annual Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. Agencies, organizations and people that work with Minnesotans with Medicare will want to be kept apprised of the latest Part D information and its effect on Minnesotans with Medicare.
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.
What happens when your Medicare pays for most of your costs, but not all of your costs? Don’t worry- Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) will pay for the extra costs such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles that Medicare may not completely cover. It’s a policy that helps pay for some things that Medicare may not completely pay for.  Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies licensed to offer these plans in your state. Medigap plans are different than Medicare Advantage Plans (like an HMO and PPO).  Medigap policies do NOT cover most Part D prescription medications. If you want drug coverage, you can add standalone Part D plans available in your service area.

A Special Needs Plan is a type of Medicare Advantage plan limited to people with certain chronic conditions and  other specific characteristics. Typically, you must receive care from health care providers and hospitals within your SNP network, except for in cases when you need emergency or urgent care and when someone who has End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) needs out-of-area kidney dialysis.

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You can have a Medicare Advantage plan that is integrated with MA coverage. These plans include all the coverage that Medicare Parts A, B, and D offer plus what MA covers. They are called Special Needs Plans (SNP) plans if you are 18 – 64 years old; Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) if you are 65 or older. With these plans, there’s less paperwork (you only have one insurance card) and you don’t have to worry so much about which of your benefits pays for which medical services. They also offer care coordination as a core part of the plan.
A federal law passed in 2003 created a “competition” requirement for Medicare Cost plans, which stipulated the plans could not be offered in service areas where there was significant competition from Medicare Advantage plans. Congress delayed implementation of the requirement several times until a law passed in 2015 that called for the rule to take effect in 2019. 

Of the more than 300,000 people losing their Cost plans in Minnesota, it’s likely that roughly 100,000 people will be automatically enrolled into a comparable plan with their current insurer, Corson said, unless they make another selection. Details haven’t been finalized, he said. That likely will leave another 200,000 people, he said, who will need to be proactive to obtain new replacement Medicare coverage.

When you are eligible for Medicare you may sign up for Original Medicare (Part A & Part B), which cover hospital services and medical services, respectively, or you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C). If you sign up for Original Medicare you also have the option to purchase a separate or stand alone prescription drug plan (Part D). Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D insurance plans are sold by private insurance companies that have a contract with Medicare. Original Medicare offers its beneficiaries flexibility in choosing their providers and you are not limited to a network. However, there is no limit on out-of-pocket medical expenses and you must always pay 20% coinsurance for medical service costs. For most Medicare beneficiaries, Part A is already paid through paycheck deductions during their working years (or their spouse's) but most Medicare beneficiaries pay premiums for Part B unless they qualify for financial assistance. Medicare Advantage plans require you to stay in network but some plans will also cover out-of-network care at a higher cost. Many Medicare Advantage plans also include additional health benefits such as vision, dental, or hearing coverage and you have the option to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MAPD) in almost all states.


In states with lots of rural areas, like Minnesota, Medicare Cost plans tend to be more popular because they offer more flexibility than an HMO. If a plan member gets services inside of the network of Medicare Cost Plans, they work the same way that an HMO works. If the plan member decides to visit a non-network medical provider, Medicare Cost Plans will cover those services the same way that Original Medicare Part A and Part B do. Typically, a Medicare Advantage HMO won’t cover non-emergency services outside of the network at all.


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.
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