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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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).
Medicare Advantage is a PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage depends on contract renewal. Enrollment in the plan after December 31, 2018 cannot be guaranteed. Either CMS or the plan may choose not to renew the contract, or the plan may choose to change the area it serves. Any such change may result in termination of your enrollment. Benefits, premiums, copayments and/or coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year. The formulary, pharmacy network and/or provider network may change at any time. You will receive notice when necessary.
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.
Final decisions haven’t been made on exactly which counties in Minnesota will lose Cost plans next year, the government said. But based on current figures, insurance companies expect that Cost plans are going away in 66 counties across the state including those in the Twin Cities metro. They are expected to continue in 21 counties, carriers said, plus North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
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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.