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. 

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).
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.
Some residents are not allowed to apply for Medicaid online through ApplyMN or MNsure. Where do you sign up for Medicaid? Applicants who cannot apply online are required to submit a Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) paper application through their local tribal or county office. A paper application is only allowed if everyone in the family meets one of the following:

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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).
In the fall of 2013, prior to the launch of the ACA’s exchanges, Minnesota’s total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment stood at 873,040. There were 144,481 new Medicaid enrollments through MNsure, the state-run exchange, from October 2013 through April 2014, and total enrollment in Minnesota’s Medicaid program had grown to 1,066,787 by August 2014, an increase of more than 22 percent over the enrollment total prior to October 2013. Many of these enrollees were already eligible prior to 2014, but were not aware of their eligibility.

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).


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The Minnesota Medicaid program is for people with low income and is known as Medical Assistance (MA). Low income residents of Minnesota that qualify for Medicaid 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… Read More
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.
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.
Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility, there are many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include personal belongings, household furnishings, an automobile, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant or their spouse lives in the home and the equity value is under $585,000 (in 2019). For married couples, as of 2019, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) can retain up to a maximum of $126,420 of the couple’s joint assets, as the chart indicates above. This, in Medicaid terminology, is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
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.
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.
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.

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.

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.
Medicare Savings Programs help people on Medicare pay for some of their out-of pocket Medicare costs. The costs paid depend upon your income but can include Medicare Part A and B premiums, co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. You need to have countable income that is 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,366/month for an individual, $1,852/month for couples) to qualify for a Medicare Savings Program.

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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
Some residents are not allowed to apply for Medicaid online through ApplyMN or MNsure. Where do you sign up for Medicaid? Applicants who cannot apply online are required to submit a Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) paper application through their local tribal or county office. A paper application is only allowed if everyone in the family meets one of the following:

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.
Special enrollment periods remain for most beneficiaries who live in one of the 66 Minnesota counties that are losing their Cost Plans as of Dec. 31 due a change in federal law. As of Jan. 1 Medicare beneficiaries whose Cost Plan ended Dec. 31 and who did not enroll in a new plan will return to Original Medicare (Parts A and B only). Returning to Original Medicare could be costly so these beneficiaries should know that through Feb. 28 they can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan and a Part D prescription drug plan or through March 4 they can purchase a Medigap policy without a health screening.
See whether you would prefer a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans have to offer at least the basic benefits that Original Medicare offers, but some Medicare Advantage plans might also offer coverage for things that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to see if there’s a Medicare Advantage plan that meets your needs.

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) based on your or your spouse’s current employment, you may be eligible for an SEP. To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your HSA at least 6 months before you apply for Medicare. You can withdraw money from your HSA after you enroll in Medicare to help pay for medical expenses (like deductibles, premiums, coinsurance or copayments). If you’d like to continue to get health benefits through an HSA-like benefit structure after you enroll in Medicare, a Medicare Advantage Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plan might be an option.
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Once you are eligible for Medicare Part D, you must either enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan, Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, or have creditable prescription drug coverage(that is, drug coverage that is expected to pay at least as much as standard Medicare prescription drug coverage). Some people may choose to delay Medicare Part D enrollment if they already have creditable drug coverage through an employer group plan. 

Medicare Savings Programs help people on Medicare pay for some of their out-of pocket Medicare costs. The costs paid depend upon your income but can include Medicare Part A and B premiums, co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. You need to have countable income that is 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,366/month for an individual, $1,852/month for couples) to qualify for a Medicare Savings Program.


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.

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.
Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility, there are many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include personal belongings, household furnishings, an automobile, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant or their spouse lives in the home and the equity value is under $585,000 (in 2019). For married couples, as of 2019, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) can retain up to a maximum of $126,420 of the couple’s joint assets, as the chart indicates above. This, in Medicaid terminology, is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
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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