You become eligible to sign up for Medicare during a seven-month period called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This covers the three months before you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after you turn 65. During IEP, you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a Part D prescription drug plan. If you want your coverage to start the month of your 65th birthday, you must enroll at least one month before your birthday month. If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B or Part D when you first become eligible, you may have to pay a premium penalty if you enroll later.
If you did not enroll during the IEP when you were first eligible, you can enroll during the General Enrollment Period. The general enrollment period for Original Medicare is from January 1 through March 31 of each year. Keep in mind that you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part A and/or Part B if you did not sign up when you were first eligible.
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.
In addition, both Minnesota Medigap plans and Medicare plans usually come with a package of membership benefits. These extra benefits may help members save money on such non-Medicare expenses as memberships to fitness clubs, dental care, glasses, and even over-the-counter vitamins and medicine. These membership benefits aren’t insurance, but they may offer the same sort of discounts that people enjoy when they have to pay for in-network services with insurance.
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.

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.
If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and B (Original Medicare), Medigap plans can help fill the coverage gaps in Medicare Part A and Part B. Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies and are designed to assist you with out-of-pocket costs (e.g. deductibles, copays and coinsurance) not covered by Parts A and B. These plans are available in all 50 states and can vary in premiums and enrollment eligibility. Medigap plans are standardized; however, all of the standardized plans may not be available in your area.
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).
For people who are under 65 and eligible for Medicare due to a disability, Medigap availability depends entirely on state regulations, as there is no federal regulation requiring a guaranteed issue Medigap enrollment period for under-65 enrollees. The majority of the states have established regulations regarding access to Medigap coverage for this population, although they vary considerably in scope (click on a state on the map above to see how access to Medigap is handled in the state).
You’ll have the opportunity to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to February 14. You cannot use this period to switch Medicare Advantage plans or make other changes. However, if you decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plan, you can also use this period to join a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan, since Original Medicare doesn’t include prescription drug coverage.

Medicaid is a medical assistance program that provides coverage for various types of medical care. Eligible individuals and families can receive coverage for doctor visits, X-rays, labs, inpatient care, outpatient care and more. However, not all procedures are covered under the federal medical assistance program. To learn about which procedures are covered and to find out all about the Medicaid program, download our comprehensive guide.


Besides the income limit for Medical Assistance in Minnesota, there is an asset limit. Assets are personal possessions that have value, such as cars, checking and savings accounts, real estate and investments. The asset requirements for Medicaid in MN do not apply to children who are younger than 21 years of age, adults without children, pregnant women and certain other groups. Parents and any caretaker relative who are eligible for MA with a spenddown have certain asset limits. Seniors and people who are 21 years of age and older who are disabled or blind have to adhere to an asset limit as well. Assets that do not need to be noted toward the Medicaid asset limit requirements include the applicant’s place of residence, household goods, personal items like clothing and jewelry and special items owned by an American Indian.
If you have been receiving Social Security disability benefits or certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, you'll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Your Medicare card will arrive three months before your 25 month of disability. You may also choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Prescription Drug Plan.
There’s a new premium bracket for the highest-income Part B and Part D enrollees. Under the terms of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, enrollees with income of $500,000 or more ($750,000 or more for a married couple) will pay a new, higher premium for Part B and Part D coverage in 2019 and future years. For reference, in 2018, the highest income bracket starts at $160,000 ($320,000 for a married couple). The Medicare Trustees’ report projected a Part B premium of $460.70/month for Part B enrollees in the new highest bracket in 2019, and an additional $82.90/month added to the Part D premiums charged by the insurer that provides the Part D coverage.

Medicaid is a medical assistance program that provides coverage for various types of medical care. Eligible individuals and families can receive coverage for doctor visits, X-rays, labs, inpatient care, outpatient care and more. However, not all procedures are covered under the federal medical assistance program. To learn about which procedures are covered and to find out all about the Medicaid program, download our comprehensive guide.

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.
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.
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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