Starting in April 2018, Medicare beneficiaries began receiving new Medicare ID cards that don’t have Social Security numbers on them. This change was announced in September 2017, and it’s an effort to combat identity theft and fraud. The new cards, which are being mailed out over the course of a year (all beneficiaries will have them by April 2019, as required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act—MACRA—of 2015), have randomly generated ID numbers instead of Social Security numbers. You can continue to use your current card until your new one arrives. Once it does, you’ll want to destroy and securely dispose of your old one, and begin using the new one instead.


Even when you enroll in Medicare, your out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays can be significant. This is especially true in Minnesota where health insurance premiums vary based on location and population density. It is important to consider options that can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Medicare supplements (also known as Medigap), Medicare managed-care style health plans (Advantage and Cost plans) and Part D plans can provide you the coverage and protection you may need. These additional plans must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Insurance, so you can rest assured that all plans meet the established criteria.
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.
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.
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.
When people were first shown how to qualify for Medicaid in Minnesota in January of 1996, Minnesota was one of the first six states to put the healthcare scheme into action. Minnesota has always put the needs of residents first when laying the ground rules for Medicaid benefits and the state has been controlling costs through the implementation of Pre-paid Medical Assistance Programs, better known as PMAP Medicaid benefits. 

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.

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. 

And although 16 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are under 65 and eligible for Medicare due to a disability (including ALS and kidney failure), federal rules do not guarantee access to Medigap plans for enrollees who are under age 65. The majority of the states have implemented regulations to ensure access to at least some Medigap plans for people in this situation, although it varies considerably from one state to another.

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.


Discrimination is Against the Law. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and Minnesota laws. We do not discriminate against, exclude or treat people differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. Please see our Fairview Patients’ Bill of Rights or HealthEast Patients' Bill of Rights.
“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.” 

Medigap is the only form of private coverage for Medicare beneficiaries that has no federally mandated annual open enrollment period. Medigap coverage is guaranteed issue for six months, starting when you’re at least 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During that time, enrollees can select any Medigap plan available in their area, with no medical underwriting.
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.
Our affordable options make finding the right plan easy. Choosing a Medicare plan doesn't have to be difficult. You just need the right options and the right information. Medica has both. We can answer your questions and help you select the right coverage to meet your needs. So you can feel confident about your choice. And get back to the things you really enjoy.
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.
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.
On September 12, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new partnership with the State of Minnesota to test new ways of improving care for Medicare-Medicaid enrollees. Building on the state's Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) program, CMS and Minnesota will work together to improve the beneficiary experience in health plans that maintain contracts with both CMS as Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans and with the state to deliver Medicaid services.   
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. 

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).

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.


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.
You’re eligible for Medicare if you’re age 65 or older, receiving disability benefits, or have certain conditions, like end-stage renal disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). You must be either a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident of at least five years. In some instances, you may not have to take any action in order to enroll. This may happen if you’re turning 65 and already receive Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
Major changes are coming for close to half of Minnesotans on Medicare in 2019. Are you one of those affected? Unbiased help is just a phone call away. This year’s Medicare open enrollment period is October 15 – December 7. This is the time when anyone on Medicare can change his or her health plan and drug coverage for the following year. Since plans change yearly, your current plan might not meet your needs for next year. In the land of 10,000 lakes, the very popular Cost Plans will be ending in most Minnesota counties as of January 1, 2019. This will require many to pick a new plan. Check out Minnesota’s own Diana Pierce talking about the change in this video. Cost Plans are sold by three companies is Minnesota: Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN, HealthPartners, and Medica. If you have a Cost Plan that is discontinued, you have likely already received communications about the change from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and from the company that offers your health plan. Do you need help sorting out your options? We can help!  Health Care Choices for Minnesotans on Medicare, 2019 Edition, is now available online and at MAAA offices. The guide, published by the Minnesota Board of Aging, provides comprehensive information on Medicare options available to Minnesotans. Dates to keep in mind
The question, “Who is eligible for Medicaid?” is a query that Minnesota’s residents want answered. Adults with an income that is 139 percent of the poverty level or below can gain Medical Assistance (MA). MA is the name given to Medicaid in Minnesota. As of June 2016, 1,027,909 people were accepted for Medicaid benefits eligibility in MN, with the uninsured rate decreasing by 39 percent from 2013-2015.
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.
Discrimination is Against the Law. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and Minnesota laws. We do not discriminate against, exclude or treat people differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. Please see our Fairview Patients’ Bill of Rights or HealthEast Patients' Bill of Rights.
TZ Insurance Solutions LLC and the licensed sales agents that may call you are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. This website does not contain a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call (877) 486-2048), 24 hours a day / 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.
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.

When people were first shown how to qualify for Medicaid in Minnesota in January of 1996, Minnesota was one of the first six states to put the healthcare scheme into action. Minnesota has always put the needs of residents first when laying the ground rules for Medicaid benefits and the state has been controlling costs through the implementation of Pre-paid Medical Assistance Programs, better known as PMAP Medicaid benefits.
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. 
×