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.
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.
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.
According to the Star Tribune, one of the biggest changes happening in Minnesota this year for Medicare recipients may be the reduction in the number of Medicare Cost plans available in your county. Medicare Cost plans are types of Medicare Advantage plans that work like a regular HMO when patients get services inside the network; however, they revert to working like Original Medicare Part A and Part B outside of the plan’s network. This means that beneficiaries can enjoy low costs when they can use a plan doctor, but they will still have their services covered if they need to step outside of the plan’s list of providers.
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).
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.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.
If you don’t want Medicare Advantage, think about a Medigap policy (Medicare Supplement Insurance). If you get Original Medicare, you can pay an extra monthly premium to get a private Medigap policy that covers some of the expenses that Medicare Parts A and B won’t cover, such as co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. Medigap policies do not cover prescription drugs (you need Part D for that). Learn more about Medigap policies or find one in your area. 

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.

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.
To enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you must have Part A and/or Part B and live in the service area of a plan that provides drug coverage. It’s important to sign up for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage as soon as you’re eligible. Unless you have creditable prescription drug coverage (that is, prescription drug coverage that is at least as good as Medicare Part D), you may have to pay a Part D late enrollment penalty if you sign up later with a Medicare plan that offers prescription drug coverage.
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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.
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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.
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.

Remember, Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits that are not offered in Original Medicare coverage. Beneficiaries who need prescription drug coverage may prefer the convenience of having all of their Medicare coverage included under a single plan, instead of enrolling in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for Medicare Part D coverage. However, every person’s situation is different, so it’s a good idea to review your specific health needs, and compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area to find a plan option that best suits your needs.
Since 1997, Minnesota has provided Medicare coverage for approximately 35,000 Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals over age 65 through the Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) program. Today, the Minnesota demonstration recognizes this program stability and is focused on administrative flexibility rather than developing a new capitated system. The current demonstration will be evaluated for its ability to further promote integration. However, the longevity of the MSHO program provides for unique data analysis opportunities. MSHO claims data are a rich resource for researchers to analyze the impact of integrated care on health care outcomes for Medicare-Medicaid eligible.  To that end, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) published Minnesota Managed Care Longitudinal Data Analysis which highlights the importance of providing integrated options for Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals. It may be found at this link: https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/minnesota-managed-care-longitudinal-data-analysis
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.
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.
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).
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. 

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.
Without the flexibility of Medicare Cost plans, state residents might turn to an Basic or an Extended Basic Supplement plan in Minnesota. Insurers may charge more for a Minnesota Medigap plan, but, many times they have more thorough coverage. Minnesota Medigap plans will pay for almost all covered services, so some recipients may end up saving money anyway.
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.
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.
TZ Insurance Solutions LLC and the licensed sales agents that may call you are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. This website does not contain a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call (877) 486-2048), 24 hours a day / 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.

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.
A “Welcome to Medicare” packet is mailed out a few months before you turn 65. If you are not yet 65 but receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, or receive certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, then you become eligible for Medicare as soon as you enter into the 25th straight month of receiving those benefits.
Before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, it’s a good idea to check that the formulary includes your prescription medications; the formulary is a list of prescription medications covered by the plan. Formularies vary by plan, and not every medication is covered by every Medicare plan, so it’s important to double check. Keep in mind that formularies are subject to change. The formulary may change at any time. You will receive notice from your plan when necessary.
Even when you enroll in Medicare, your out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays can be significant. This is especially true in Minnesota where health insurance premiums vary based on location and population density. It is important to consider options that can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Medicare supplements (also known as Medigap), Medicare managed-care style health plans (Advantage and Cost plans) and Part D plans can provide you the coverage and protection you may need. These additional plans must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Insurance, so you can rest assured that all plans meet the established criteria.

It’s been well known that most Medicare Cost plans in Minnesota would be expiring in 2019. Why are Medicare Cost Plans in Minnesota expiring? The simplest answer is, to simplify the options available to you, the consumer. Although some seniors will be able to keep their Cost Plan, Minnesotans in about 66 counties will have to choose either a Medigap Plan or a Medicare Advantage plan this year to replace their Cost Plan.
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