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.
It’s important to note that Minnesota has a Medicaid Look-Back Period. This is a period of 60 months (5 years) that dates back from one’s Medicaid application date. During this time frame, Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were sold or given away under fair market value. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a period of Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.
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.
Prior to the ACA, the vast majority of adults 55 or older who were covered by Medicaid were elderly, low-income residents who needed long-term care (Medicare does not cover long-term care, but Medicaid does if the person’s income and assets are low enough). But starting in 2014, large numbers of residents — many of whom were 55 or older — became eligible for Medicaid, and many were caught off-guard when they found out that leins were being filed against their estates.
But be aware that your benefits and premium could change from one year to the next. So even if you’re confident that you want to keep your current coverage for the following year, it’s important to make sure you understand any changes that may apply, and that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option. The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if the plan you have now was the best option when you shopped last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.
If you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B, but do not wish to keep it you have a few options to drop the coverage. If your Medicare coverage hasn’t started yet and you were sent a red, white, and blue Medicare card, you can follow the instructions that come with your card and send the card back. If you keep the Medicare card, you keep Part B and will need to pay Part B premiums. If you signed up for Medicare through Social Security, then you will need to contact them to drop Part B coverage. If your Medicare coverage has started and you want to drop Part B, contact Social Security for instructions on how to submit a signed request. Your coverage will end the first day of the month after Social Security gets your request.

Original Medicare, on the other hand, provides wider access to doctors and hospitals and gives people a choice of Part D coverage from a variety of companies. While Medicare itself only covers 80 percent of costs in many cases, people who use the government program in tandem with Medigap and Part D coverage can see lower copayments for doctor and hospital care than with MA plans.


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.
When calling, please have your Medicare and/or current plan card available. Caregivers welcome. To explore 2019 Medicare plans on your own, visit the Medicare Plan Finder (Medicare.gov). You’ll be able to create an account, view your current plan, and explore 2019 offerings. After October 15, you’ll also be able to enroll in a plan. Take charge. Start learning about your plan options today!
1. This table reflects the principal but not all MAGI coverage groups. All income standards are expressed as a percentage of the federal poverty level (FPL). For the eligibility groups reflected in the table, an individual’s income, computed using the Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)-based income rules described in 42 CFR 435.603, is compared to the income standards identified in this table to determine if they are income eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. The MAGI-based rules generally include adjusting an individual’s income by an amount equivalent to 5% FPL disregard. Other eligibility criteria also apply, for example, with respect to citizenship, immigration status and residency.

You may qualify for a special enrollment period if you delayed Part B because you or your spouse had medical coverage through an employer or union, or if you cancelled Part B coverage because you went back to work with group medical coverage. The special enrollment period lasts eight months (it begins when your employer coverage ends, or when your employment ends – whichever is first). Request a form from your employer to begin your special enrollment period, and then send the form with your Part B Enrollment form to Social Security. If you continue your employer coverage through COBRA, you should enroll in Medicare Part B during the first three months of your COBRA coverage to avoid the late enrollment penalty.
Neither Bloomington-based HealthPartners nor Minnetonka-based Medica say they've seen many cases of consumers switching coverage thus far. But Minneapolis-based UCare has been hearing from consumers who are considering a change because they've found their new coverage doesn't include access to certain doctors and hospitals at in-network rates, said Ghita Worcester, a senior vice president with the health insurer.
If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and you don’t want to make changes to your coverage for the coming year, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, assuming your current plan will continue to be available. If your plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, you will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment.
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.
American Indians can continue to use tribal and Indian Health Services (IHS) clinics. We will not require prior approval or impose any conditions for you to get services at these clinics. For elders 65 years and older this includes Elderly Waiver (EW) services accessed through the tribe. If a doctor or other provider in a tribal or IHS clinic refers you to a provider in our network, we will not require you to see your primary care provider prior to the referral.
The Initial Enrollment Period is a limited window of time when you can enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and/or Part B) when you are first eligible. After you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can select other coverage options like a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plan from approved private insurers. The best time to buy a Medigap policy is the six month period that starts the first day of the month that you turn 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. After this period, your ability to buy a Medigap policy may be limited and it may be more costly. Each state handles things differently, but there are additional open enrollment periods in some cases.
People in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan should always review the materials their plans send them, like the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC). If their plans are changing, they should make sure their plans will still meet their needs for the following year. If they’re satisfied that their current plans will meet their needs for next year and it’s still being offered, they don’t need to do anything.
Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. But younger Americans gain Medicare eligibility after they have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months, or have ALS or end-stage renal disease. Thirteen percent of Minnesota’s Medicare beneficiaries were under age 65 as of 2017, versus 16 percent nationwide. On the high and low ends of the spectrum, 23 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi are under 65, while just 9 percent of Hawaii’s Medicare beneficiaries are eligible due to disability.
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. 

You may choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are first eligible because you are already covered by group medical insurance through an employer or union. If you lose your group insurance, or if you decide you want to switch from your group coverage to Medicare, you can sign up at any time that you are still covered by the group plan or during a Special Enrollment Period(SEP).

Medicare is a federal program that helps seniors in Minnesota and all over the country pay for their medical expenses. It is a program that is split into two main parts. Part A is a program that covers your hospital care and rehabilitation in case you get injured or sick. Part B will help pay for outpatient care, preventive care, and other forms of health care. If you ever get sick in Minnesota, this federal program will help you pay for it and for some of your medication. But this program will not pay for everything.

“What is Medicaid eligibility?” This question may be on your mind if you are new to the program. MN Medicaid eligibility is generally determined by the income level of the individual or household applying for Medical Assistance (MA). Individuals and families that fall within the allowable income range are eligible to receive benefits. In order to qualify for the program all applicants must meet all income and any other requirements.


Applicants who want a quick determination of MN Medicaid benefits eligibility can apply online to obtain the fastest results. By following Medicaid application guidelines and applying online, candidates can avoid a long waiting period. Applicants may be notified right away if they qualify for Medical Assistance in Minnesota or if they will have to pay for health care coverage. If an applicant is denied for MA benefits, the state will provide reasoning for its decision. Those who qualify for Medicaid benefits will receive an official letter with a response that lists eligible members of the household. The letter will also offer information on how to have the application reviewed if the candidate does not agree with the determination that was made. Candidates can also apply by mail, but the process does take longer.
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.
Minnesota agents can help you understand other factors that can affect Medicare eligibility, including whether or not you have a permanent disability or a chronic illness. For those who don’t are not eligible for Medicare but are low-income, Minnesota licensed agents can help you choose a plan from the health insurance marketplace that suits your needs and budget.
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