If you are a Minnesota resident enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you have options to also enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan in Minnesota (also called Medigap or MedSupp) to cover health costs not covered under Original Medicare. Costs not covered under Original Medicare might include deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other out-of-pocket costs. Most states, including Minnesota, offer Medigap policies with letters corresponding with different Medicare Supplement Insurance plans with certain standardized benefits.
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.

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.


One of the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) is for Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMB). The QMB program covers the premiums for Medicare Part A and Part B. The deductibles, copays, and coinsurance costs are covered as well. An individual can qualify for this program with an income of no more than $1,032 a month. A married couple can also qualify with a combined income of less than $1,392 a month.
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.
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.
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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).

Education Minnesota has teamed up with Minnesota Health Insurance Network in offering you access to individual health insurance and Medicare supplement plans through private carriers such as Assurant, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Partners, Humana, Medica, Preferred One and UCare. Our partnership allows you to work with a licensed health insurance agent who can help you better understand your options as a consumer. Call Tim Schatz today at 877-926-3366 or locally at 952-465-0064. Or visit www.educationmn.mnhi.net to schedule an appointment.

Education Minnesota has teamed up with Minnesota Health Insurance Network in offering you access to individual health insurance and Medicare supplement plans through private carriers such as Assurant, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Partners, Humana, Medica, Preferred One and UCare. Our partnership allows you to work with a licensed health insurance agent who can help you better understand your options as a consumer. Call Tim Schatz today at 877-926-3366 or locally at 952-465-0064. Or visit www.educationmn.mnhi.net to schedule an appointment.
One of the reasons Medicare Cost has been so popular in Minnesota is that the state has a large population of “snowbirds” — retirees who live in Minnesota during the summer, but head south to warmer climes in the winter. With Medicare Cost plans, the enrollee still has Original Medicare — including the large nationwide network of providers who work with Medicare — in addition to the Medicare Cost coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, in contrast, tend to have localized networks that might not be suitable for a senior who lives in two different states during the year. A Medigap plan plus Original Medicare will allow a person in that situation to have access to health providers in both locations, although Medigap tends to be more expensive than Medicare Advantage. There are pros and cons to both options, and no one-size-fits-all solution.
January 1, 2019 – March 31, 2019 Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period (new for 2019). Any senior with a Medicare Advantage plan can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan; drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare; sign up for a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan (if returning to Original Medicare); or drop their stand-alone Part D 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.
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Another wrinkle is that people who want a supplement might have a better chance of getting into the coverage during the transition out of their Medicare Cost plan, when the supplement is provided on a “guaranteed issue” basis. Later, insurance companies can ask questions about a senior’s health status and deny coverage depending on the answers, said Greiner of the Minnesota Board on Aging.

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.   


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.
Another wrinkle is that people who want a supplement might have a better chance of getting into the coverage during the transition out of their Medicare Cost plan, when the supplement is provided on a “guaranteed issue” basis. Later, insurance companies can ask questions about a senior’s health status and deny coverage depending on the answers, said Greiner of the Minnesota Board on Aging.
Medigap plans can be considered when looking for an alternative to Medicare Advantage plans for 2019.  Unlike the no monthly premium or low premium option that you might be used to with Medicare Part C plans in Minnesota, you will have to pay for a Supplement plan. Your plan will make healthcare costs more affordable in the long run, however. This is because your chosen insurance company will pay most of the expenses like deductibles and coinsurances of Original Medicare Part A and B.
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.
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.
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.
Some programs help people who have little to no income. Examples of people these programs may serve include seniors and those unable to work because of serious illness. Other programs help people who work but do not have access to affordable health insurance. People these programs serve include those who are working one or more jobs but do not get health insurance through their jobs. They also include farmers and other self-employed people.

MA plans often include dental, vision and health-club benefits that aren’t part of many supplements. Yet people who buy a supplement have the option of buying “stand-alone” Part D prescription drug coverage from any one of several insurers — a feature touted as one of the selling points for Cost plans, too. People in MA plans, by contrast, are limited to Part D plans sold by their MA carrier, Christenson said.
There are several different Medicaid long-term care programs for which Minnesota seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical eligibility requirements, as well as varying benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the requirements vary with marital status and that Minnesota offers multiple pathways towards Medicaid eligibility.
Minnesota had some of the country’s most generous eligibility guidelines for Medicaid prior to expansion under the ACA (up to 100 percent of poverty for adults with dependent children, and up to 75 percent of poverty for those without dependent children). And the state also became the first in the nation to establish a Basic Health Program under the ACA.

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.
If you are not eligible for retirement benefits from Social Security or the RRB, you will not be automatically enrolled into Original Medicare. However, you can still sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B during your IEP. You may not be able to get premium-free Medicare Part A, and the cost of your monthly Part A premium will depend on how long you worked and paid Medicare taxes. You will still have to pay a Medicare Part B premium.

There are several different Medicare enrollment periods that can be easily confused. There's your initial enrollment period, special enrollment periods and a general enrollment period. There's even an Open (Annual) Enrollment Period from October 15th to December 7th that allows you to change your Medicare coverage. There is state-specific information you should also take into consideration when choosing your Medicare coverage.
Prior to 2014, Medical Assistance in Minnesota was available to parents with dependent children if their household income was up to 100 percent of poverty, and to adults without dependent children if their household income was up to 75 percent of poverty. Minnesota was already very progressive in providing Medicaid access for most of the state’s low-income population – in many states there was no coverage at all for childless non-disabled adults prior to 2014, and in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the ACA, there still isn’t.
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.

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.   


There are several different Medicare enrollment periods that can be easily confused. There's your initial enrollment period, special enrollment periods and a general enrollment period. There's even an Open (Annual) Enrollment Period from October 15th to December 7th that allows you to change your Medicare coverage. There is state-specific information you should also take into consideration when choosing your Medicare coverage.


During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you have a “guaranteed-issue right” to buy any Medigap plan sold in your state. This means that insurance companies cannot reject your application for a Medicare Supplement insurance plan based on pre-existing health conditions or disabilities. They also cannot charge you a higher premium based on your health status. Outside of this open enrollment period, you may not be able to join any Medigap plan you want, and insurers can require you to undergo medical underwriting. You may have to pay more if you have health problems or disabilities.
The Minnesota Medicaid program is for people with low income and is known as Medical Assistance (MA). Low income residents of Minnesota who meet Medicaid eligibility requirements get health care through various health plan providers serving different counties. Minnesota residents that do not get health care through a health plan receive care on a fee-to-service basis. With this option, the health plan providers bill the state directly for the services they offer. Medical Assistance (MA) is Minnesota’s largest Medicaid health care program. The program serves pregnant women, children, adults that do not have children, families, the elderly, the blind and residents with disabilities. Are curious about where to apply for Medicaid? Or are you interested in reviewing the Medicaid application form before attempting to apply?
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As you can see, you have a lot of good choices if you want to compare Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota for 2019. Calling all of these companies can be difficult and can take forever, but you don’t have to do that to find pricing information. Instead, you can pull it all up with our quote request form, making a comparison easier than it might have ever been before.
Among those losing Cost plans, about 142,000 people are being automatically enrolled in new MA plans from their current insurer, although they are free to make a different choice. Some of those being automatically enrolled in an MA plan are finding their doctor is not in the new health plan’s network, Greiner said, and there are cases where the new MA plan’s drug coverage brings much higher copayment requirements.
Medicare overview information on this website was developed by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to help consumers understand certain aspects about Medicare. Viewing this Medicare overview does not require you to enroll in any Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. To find out about premiums and terms for these and other insurance options, how to apply for coverage, and for much more information, contact your local Blue Cross Blue Shield company. Each Blue Cross Blue Shield company is responsible for the information that it provides. For more information about Medicare including a complete listing of plans available in your service area, please contact the Medicare program at 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048) or visit www.medicare.gov.
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