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).

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.


Another wrinkle is that people who want a supplement might have a better chance of getting into the coverage during the transition out of their Medicare Cost plan, when the supplement is provided on a “guaranteed issue” basis. Later, insurance companies can ask questions about a senior’s health status and deny coverage depending on the answers, said Greiner of the Minnesota Board on Aging.
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.
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.
What are the income requirements for Medicaid? In the event that an adult’s income exceeds the 135 percent Federal Poverty Level, he or she may sign up for a different kind of care in Minnesota, called MNCare. State tax from Minnesota hospitals and health care providers fund this program, which includes basic health services for people who do not exceed the income requirement for Medicaid in Minnesota.
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One of the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) is for Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMB). The QMB program covers the premiums for Medicare Part A and Part B. The deductibles, copays, and coinsurance costs are covered as well. An individual can qualify for this program with an income of no more than $1,032 a month. A married couple can also qualify with a combined income of less than $1,392 a month.
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. 

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.
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.
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.

As an alternative to obtaining Original Medicare coverage directly from the government, you may want to consider Medicare Advantage (sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C) in Minnesota. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with CMS to provide all Original Medicare benefits except hospice care, which is paid by Medicare Part A. Many Medicare Advantage plans also include extra benefits such as routine dental and vision care.
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