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.
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.
The annual open enrollment period for people selecting a Medicare health plan ends Friday, but that doesn’t mean the shopping season is over for more than 300,000 Minnesotans who are losing their Medicare Cost coverage next year. Beginning Saturday, people losing Cost plans will be eligible for a special enrollment period where they have until month’s end to buy replacement coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, and enrollment options that stretch into 2019. (Snowbeck, 12/6)
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Not surprisingly, the popularity of Medicare Advantage plans varies significantly from one state to another, with only one percent of the Medicare population enrolled in Advantage plans in Alaska (there are no individual Medicare Advantage plans available at all in Alaska; people with Advantage coverage there have employer-sponsored Medicare Advantage plans), versus 56 percent in Minnesota.
Original Medicare does not provide coverage for outpatient prescription drugs. More than half of Original Medicare beneficiaries nationwide have supplemental coverage via an employer-sponsored plan (from a current or former employer or spouse’s employer) or Medicaid, and these plans often include prescription coverage. Some Medigap plans that were sold prior to 2006 included coverage for prescription drugs, but sales of those plans ceased as of 2006, when Medicare Part D became available. Part D was created under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
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.
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