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.

Final decisions haven’t been made on exactly which counties in Minnesota will lose Cost plans next year, the government said. But based on current figures, insurance companies expect that Cost plans are going away in 66 counties across the state including those in the Twin Cities metro. They are expected to continue in 21 counties, carriers said, plus North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.


MA enrollees who qualify for Medicare must enroll in Parts A and B as a condition of their MA eligibility. When an MA eligible person does not qualify for automatic payment of Medicare premiums, the person may be required to enroll in Medicare if the premiums are found to be cost effective. See Referrals to Medicare to determine who must be referred to apply for Medicare and the steps in the referral process.

Minnesota is one of just three states in the country (Massachusetts and Wisconsin are the others) that offers its own version of Medicare Supplement insurance. Minnesota has two plans available: the Minnesota Basic Plan and the Minnesota Extended Basic Plan. In  most other states, up to 10 types of standardized plans are available. Medicare Supplement plans are also known as Medigap policies and may help pay Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments and deductibles.

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.
When you are eligible for Medicare you may sign up for Original Medicare (Part A & Part B), which cover hospital services and medical services, respectively, or you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C). If you sign up for Original Medicare you also have the option to purchase a separate or stand alone prescription drug plan (Part D). Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D insurance plans are sold by private insurance companies that have a contract with Medicare. Original Medicare offers its beneficiaries flexibility in choosing their providers and you are not limited to a network. However, there is no limit on out-of-pocket medical expenses and you must always pay 20% coinsurance for medical service costs. For most Medicare beneficiaries, Part A is already paid through paycheck deductions during their working years (or their spouse's) but most Medicare beneficiaries pay premiums for Part B unless they qualify for financial assistance. Medicare Advantage plans require you to stay in network but some plans will also cover out-of-network care at a higher cost. Many Medicare Advantage plans also include additional health benefits such as vision, dental, or hearing coverage and you have the option to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MAPD) in almost all states.
If you are under 65 and receiving certain disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, after 24 months of disability benefits. The exception to this is if you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If you have ESRD and had a kidney transplant or need regular kidney dialysis, you can apply for Medicare. If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), you will automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare in the same month that your disability benefits start.

But once that window closes, enrollees often find themselves locked into the plan they have – regardless of how the premium changes – because in most states, switching to another plan can be impossible or prohibitively expensive due to medical underwriting. (Under federal guidelines, there are seven limited circumstances when you can get a new Medigap plan without medical underwriting.)
As a result, an estimated 320,000 Medicare Cost enrollees in Minnesota needed new coverage for 2019. There are 21 counties where Medicare Cost plans continue to be available, but Medicare Cost enrollees in the rest of the state were not able to keep their Cost plans. Instead, they had the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (some were automatically enrolled in a comparable Medicare Advantage plan, although they had an option to pick something else instead), or select a Medigap plan to supplement their Original Medicare. Enrollees whose Medicare Cost plans ended have guaranteed issue rights to a Medigap plan, so they can purchase one even if they had pre-existing medical conditions. But that guaranteed-issue right only lasts for 63 days, which means Monday, March 4, 2019 is the last day these individuals can purchase a Medigap plan without having to go through medical underwriting.
Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in a Preferred Provider Organization are able to see providers outside of their plan’s network, often at a higher cost. Beneficiaries in this type of plan typically pay less out of pocket if they choose to receive medical services from providers within their plan’s network. PPO plans typically do not require patients to acquire a referral before visiting with a specialist.
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.

Keep in mind that learning how to qualify for Medicaid in MN will not happen instantly. Local districts usually process applications relating to pregnant females and adults claiming for children within a 30-day period. Disabled beneficiaries must be assessed prior to gaining coverage, so as to determine who is eligible for Medicaid services, what type of services, for what duration, etc. This whole process can take up to 90 days.

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.
×