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.


Federal guidelines call for an annual open enrollment period (October 15 to December 7) for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D coverage in every state. And as of 2019, there’s also a Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (January 1 through March 31) that allows people who already have Medicare Advantage to switch to a different Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare. But while these provisions apply nationwide, plan availability and price are different from one state to another.

But a Star Tribune review of January enrollment data shows zero-premium plans have been much less popular in Minnesota, with only about 5 percent of state residents who enrolled in a Medicare health plan opting for the coverage. Greiner said her group's analysis of federal data came to the same conclusion; the relatively low interest in zero-premium plans showed up again in recently released figures for February, she said.
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Medicare Advantage plans continue to see changes. While healthcare reform is slowly reducing rebates paid to Medicare Advantage plans, these plans continue to be popular. 33 percent of Medicare recipients were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2017—a significant increase from the enrollment total in 2010 when the ACA was signed into law. Most people continue to have numerous Medicare Advantage plans as well as Part D plans available to them. However, these providers can change the coverage options they offer from year to year so it’s important to stay up-to-date.
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.
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.
Products and services are provided exclusively by our partners, but not all offer the same plans or options. Possible options that may be offered include, but are not limited to, ACA-Qualified Plans, Medicare Plans, Short Term Plans, Christian/Health Sharing Plans, and Fixed Indemnity Plans. Descriptions are for informational purposes only and subject to change. We encourage you to shop around and explore all of your options. We are not affiliated with or endorsed by any government entity or agency.
MNsure NavigatorsMNsure has partnered with a number of trusted organizations across Minnesota. The employees of these organizations, known as navigators, are trained to provide face-to-face help with Medicaid applications. MNsure navigators can help residents apply for MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance or a qualified health plan (with or without cost-sharing and premium tax reductions.). You can call MNsure or use the MNsure navigator online finder to find a navigator in your area.
Between January 1 and March 31 each year, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave your plan and return to Original Medicare, and buy a Part D prescription drug plan to supplement your Original Medicare. Starting in 2019, you also have the option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan during this time. From 2011 through 2018, there wasn’t an option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan outside of the fall open enrollment period unless you had a circumstance that allowed you a Special Enrollment Period. But the 21st Century Cures Act (Section 17005) expanded the timeframe of the window (from one and a half months to three months) starting in 2019, and allows people to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
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.
IMPORTANT: The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had not released the 2018 Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B premiums, deductibles and coinsurance amounts prior to the print deadline for the 2018 edition of Health Care Choices. As a result, the printed edition of Health Care Choices contains 2017 Medicare Part A and B cost sharing amounts.
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.
New in 2019 is the Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period from Jan. 1 to March 31. During this time any Medicare beneficiary who begins 2019 enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D, drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare or enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan.
Now that you have an idea of the type of Medicare plan options for Minnesotans, would you like some assistance looking for a plan that fits? I’d be happy to help, and you can click on the “View profile” link below to view my profile if you’d like. How about setting up a phone call with me, or having me send you some information by email? You can click on the links below to do that. Some folks prefer to research plans on their own; you can do that easily by clicking on the Compare Plans option on the right.
In addition to Medical Assistance Medicaid, the state also provides Minnesota Care (MNCare) for residents with incomes above 138 percent of poverty, up to 200 percent of poverty. MNCare has existed in Minnesota since 1992, but it became a much more robust program in 2014. And as of January 2015, MinnesotaCare transitioned to a Basic Health Program under the ACA. BHPs are a provision of the ACA that any state can implement, but Minnesota was the only state to do so for 2015. New York has now also established a BHP, effective January 2016.
More than likely you are going to end up with an HMO type of plan, even if you opt for a Medicare Part C plan that requires you to pay a premium. HMO’s are different from PPO’s, so you’ll need to pay attention. HMO’s require you to stay within network from almost all of you Medical needs.  You’ll also need to get a referral from you Primary Care doctor when seeing a specialist most of the time.  Therefore, you’re going to want to choose a well-known company that has an excellent Medicare Advantage plan network for you to choose from.

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 other two-thirds have Original Medicare, but 81 percent of those enrollees supplement their coverage with employer-sponsored coverage, Medigap, or Medicaid. And more than 25 million Medicare beneficiaries also purchase stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription drug coverage, since Original Medicare (and some Medicare Advantage plans) does not cover outpatient drug costs.
“It’s important for consumers to review their Medicare coverage and make sure the plan is both affordable and provides access to doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies they want and need,” said Kari Benson, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging, which operates the Senior LinkAge Line. “Line specialists can help by providing comprehensive, unbiased Medicare counseling.”
But as of 2013, a similar analysis determined that four states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Idaho) required issue-age rating (carriers would also have the option to use community rating instead), and the remaining 38 states allowed premiums to be set on an attained-age basis, which means premiums rise as an enrollee gets older (carriers in those states can use issue-age or community rating instead, but most do not).
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.
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.

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.
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.
You can only sign up for Part D coverage during the first three months of the year if you’re switching from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare. You cannot, for example, be enrolled in Original Medicare with a Part D plan and then switch to a different Part D plan during the January – March enrollment period. Instead, you’d need to make that change during the fall election period (October 15 to December 7).
Since 1997, Minnesota has provided Medicare coverage for approximately 35,000 Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals over age 65 through the Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) program. Today, the Minnesota demonstration recognizes this program stability and is focused on administrative flexibility rather than developing a new capitated system. The current demonstration will be evaluated for its ability to further promote integration. However, the longevity of the MSHO program provides for unique data analysis opportunities. MSHO claims data are a rich resource for researchers to analyze the impact of integrated care on health care outcomes for Medicare-Medicaid eligible.  To that end, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) published Minnesota Managed Care Longitudinal Data Analysis which highlights the importance of providing integrated options for Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals. It may be found at this link: https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/minnesota-managed-care-longitudinal-data-analysis
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.
Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota says it's seen a net increase in Medicare enrollment of about 4,500 people during 2019, with most activity coming from people moving into Medigap plans. The insurer says that many Cost plan enrollees found the closest fit to their old coverage is original Medicare plus a Medigap supplemental plan plus stand-alone Part D drug coverage.
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. 

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.
1) Medically Needy Pathway – In a nutshell, one may still be eligible for Medicaid services even if they are over the income limit if they have high medical bills in comparison to their monthly income. In Minnesota, this program is referred to as a “Spenddown” program. Basically, persons must pay down their “excess income,” (their income over the Medicaid eligibility limit, which is often referred to as a deductible) on medical bills. This may include health insurance costs, such as Medicare premiums, as well as bills to cover medical services. Once one has paid down his or her excess income to the Medicaid eligibility limit, he or she will receive Medicaid benefits for the remainder of the spenddown period. This program, regardless of name, provides a means to “spend down” one’s extra income in order to qualify for Medicaid.
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.
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.
Each year, most Medicare beneficiaries should receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by Sept. 30. CMS makes information available to the public on Medicare.gov in October. The Medicare website is also a tremendous asset for individuals with questions about Medicare rules, timelines, Medicare Part D, etc.
Veterans who receive VA coverage and are eligible for Medicare can also consider enrolling in Medicare Part A and Part B. If you have VA benefits as well as Medicare coverage, your options for care and your coverage net can be widened. Your qualified care would be covered under Medicare Part A and/or Part B, even if you go to a non-VA hospital or doctor.
5. Reflects Medicaid state plan coverage of the eligibility group for parents and other caretaker relatives. Parents and caretaker relatives with income over the income standard for coverage under this group may be eligible for coverage in the adult group in states that have expanded to cover the adult group. In states that use dollar amounts based on household size, rather than percentages of the FPL, to determine eligibility for parents, we converted those amounts to a percentage of the FPL and selected the highest percentage to reflect the eligibility level for the group.
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 table below presents the most recent, point-in-time count of total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in   for the last day of the indicated month, and is not solely a count of those newly enrolled during the reporting period. For purpose of comparison, the table also presents (a) the change in enrollment since the initial open of the Health Insurance Marketplaces, and (b) national counts and change statistics for the same period.
Enrollment issues can also be classed as a qualifying event for Medicaid benefits in MN. To avoid delays and confusion regarding the requirements for Medicaid, it might be worth paying for a short-term health insurance policy until enrolment for Medicaid application guidelines opens again. So long as beneficiaries are aware of how to qualify for Medicaid in Minnesota, financial woes and health worries can become a thing of the past.

If you make a change, it will take effect on the first day of the following month. You’ll have to wait for the next period to make another change. You can’t use this Special Enrollment Period from October–December. However, all people with Medicare can make changes to their coverage from October 15–December 7, and the changes will take effect on January 1.


A plan must limit membership to these groups: 1) people who live in certain institutions (like a nursing home) or who require nursing care at home, or 2) people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, or 3) people who have specific chronic or disabling conditions (like diabetes, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), HIV/AIDS, chronic heart failure, or dementia). Plans may further limit membership. You can join a SNP at any time.
You should pay special attention to the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which is also called the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP). Medicare recipients can enroll in, make changes to or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) or a Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Medicare Part D) during this period, which runs from October 15 to December 7 every year. Plan elections made during the 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment Period go into effect January 2019.
As is the case nationwide, enrollment in private Medicare plans grew in Minnesota in 2018. As of December 2018, there were 581,822 Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries with private Medicare coverage, which amounts to nearly 58 percent of the state’s Medicare population. Nationwide, most people with private Medicare plans are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, but Medicare Cost plans are another type of private Medicare coverage, and as of 2018, Minnesota residents accounted for two-thirds of the national total enrollment in Medicare Cost plans. 

Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is another way to receive Original Medicare benefits and is offered through private insurance companies. At minimum, all Medicare Advantage plans must offer the same Medicare Part A and Part B benefits as Original Medicare. Some Medicare Advantage plans also include additional benefits, such as prescription drug coverage. You must have Original Medicare, Part A and B, to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan through a private insurer.
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