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.
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).
Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan as an alternative way to get their Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, coverage. Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are available through private insurance companies that contract with Medicare. All Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same level of coverage as Original Medicare, meaning you’ll get the same hospital and medical benefits of Part A and Part B through your Medicare Advantage plan. In addition, some Medicare Advantage plans may also offer additional benefits, such as routine dental, vision, hearing, or prescription drugs.
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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.
This website and its contents are for informational purposes only. Nothing on the website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.
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.
Other types of Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota have different sets of basic benefits. Some have deductibles of their own, while some may pay at least part of the Medicare Part B deductible. Every Medicare Supplement plans in Minnesota either covers at least part of the Part A deductible, or lets you add a “rider” on the policy for this purpose at an additional cost.
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.
There are 19 Medicare insurance providers that offer affordable and comprehensive Medicare insurance in Minnesota. Of these, the companies that offer the largest variety of plans to choose from are Medica, Ucare, and Humana. In Minnesota,Medica has the largest selection of Medicare Advantage plans while Humana offers the most Medicare Part D plans. The following are all medicare insurance providers in Minnesota:
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.
Medicare MSA Plans combine a high deductible Medicare Advantage Plan and a trust or custodial savings account (as defined and/or approved by the IRS). The plan deposits money from Medicare into the account. You can use this money to pay for your health care costs, but only Medicare-covered expenses count toward your deductible. The amount deposited is usually less than your deductible amount, so you generally have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage begins.
In all but three states, Medigap plans are standardized under federal rules. But Minnesota is one of three states that have federal waivers that allow the state to do its own Medigap standardization. So instead of the ten Medigap plans (A through N) that are marketed in most states, Minnesota Medigap plans include Basic, Basic with riders, Extended Basic, and Medigap plans F, K, L, M, and N. There are also Medicare Select Medigap plans in Minnesota, just as there are in other states.
Medicare Advantage (also called "Part C") and Medicare Cost plans are ways to get a single combined plan including Parts A, B, and D through a private company. With Medicare Advantage plans, you may have less flexibility, but your costs could be lower. With Medicare Cost plans, you have more flexibility, because you can still use Original Medicare to pay for out-of-network providers.
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.
A couple of major insurers have already announced new plans to replace Minnesota Cost Plans in certain counties. Typically, these new plans offer broader network coverage within an HMO. One major carrier expects about 200,000 of their Minnesota customers to lose access to a Cost Plan. On the other hand, this change may open opportunities for other companies to expand their own market shares with Minnesota Medicare Advantage plans that can offer greater flexibility, such as PPOs with nationwide networks.
See whether you would prefer a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans have to offer at least the basic benefits that Original Medicare offers, but some Medicare Advantage plans might also offer coverage for things that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to see if there’s a Medicare Advantage plan that meets your needs.
A pay-per-visit health coverage plan that allows individuals to go to any doctor, hospital, or other health care supplier who accepts Medicare and who is accepting new Medicare patients. The individual is responsible for paying a deductible and copayment. Under Original Medicare, Medicare pays a portion of the Medicare-approved amount, while the individual pays for his/her share (coinsurance).
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.
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.
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.
If you believe you are eligible for medical assistance benefits, you can begin the process of applying for Medicaid at any time. There are number of simple Medicaid application methods currently available in Minnesota; individuals and families are free to choose any of the methods to apply. It may take up to a month to be approved. You can learn about coverage and costs, eligibility, and all of the application options on our site. Please feel free to review the comprehensive information we have provided.
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.
One of the reasons Medicare Cost has been so popular in Minnesota is that the state has a large population of “snowbirds” — retirees who live in Minnesota during the summer, but head south to warmer climes in the winter. With Medicare Cost plans, the enrollee still has Original Medicare — including the large nationwide network of providers who work with Medicare — in addition to the Medicare Cost coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, in contrast, tend to have localized networks that might not be suitable for a senior who lives in two different states during the year. A Medigap plan plus Original Medicare will allow a person in that situation to have access to health providers in both locations, although Medigap tends to be more expensive than Medicare Advantage. There are pros and cons to both options, and no one-size-fits-all solution.
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