Medicare Supplement insurance plans (or Medigap) are voluntary, additional coverage that helps fills the gaps in coverage for Original Medicare. The best time to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan is during your individual Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which is the six-month period that begins on the first day of the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B. If you decide to delay your enrollment in Medicare Part B for certain reasons such as having health coverage based on current employment, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will not begin until you sign up for Part B.

Only one switch during this time frame is allowed each year — you can change your mind multiple times during the enrollment period in the fall, but can only switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan (or back to Original Medicare) once in the first quarter of the new year. But if you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan in the fall and then decide you don’t like it once it takes effect in January, you have until the end of March to make a change.


The best time to enroll in a Medigap plan is during the six-month Medigap open enrollment period which begins the month you’re 65 and you are enrolled in Part B. If you apply for coverage outside of your open enrollment period, you may be required to provide your health history and be medically underwritten. This means you could be denied coverage, or it may cost more.
You should always compare your Medicare insurance options before the Annual Election Period because plans change. It’s critically important to anticipate likely changes to Minnesota Medicare Advantage plans in 2019 for one important reason. While nothing has been finalized as of this article, it’s likely that the government will reduce or eliminate Medicare Cost Plans within many counties of this state.

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.
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.
If you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and would like to buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan, the best time to do so is during your Medigap open enrollment period. It lasts six months and begins the month you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. You cannot be denied coverage due to health reasons during this period. You may not have a Medigap plan and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time.
You may qualify for a special enrollment period if you delayed Part B because you or your spouse had medical coverage through an employer or union, or if you cancelled Part B coverage because you went back to work with group medical coverage. The special enrollment period lasts eight months (it begins when your employer coverage ends, or when your employment ends – whichever is first). Request a form from your employer to begin your special enrollment period, and then send the form with your Part B Enrollment form to Social Security. If you continue your employer coverage through COBRA, you should enroll in Medicare Part B during the first three months of your COBRA coverage to avoid the late enrollment penalty.
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.
Medicaid coverage may be different from one state to another. Though they must comply with federal regulations, every state runs its own program; the federal government does not control it. Some information about Medicaid is true in every state. For instance, in Minnesota Medicaid covers some services that are not covered other states. Other states may cover services Minnesota does not. In addition, the costs may be different; not every beneficiary of Health Link in Minnesota will pay the same monthly premium. Certain low-income Medicaid insurance beneficiaries could pay no premiums at all if they qualify for no-cost coverage.
Minnesota seniors (those over 65 years) can apply for MA using a paper Medicaid application form. After filling out the application, it should be taken or mailed to the tribal or county office. Seniors that need help paying for a long-term care facility, for example, a nursing home, should apply online through ApplyMN instead of using a paper application.

What are the income requirements for Medicaid? In the event that an adult’s income exceeds the 135 percent Federal Poverty Level, he or she may sign up for a different kind of care in Minnesota, called MNCare. State tax from Minnesota hospitals and health care providers fund this program, which includes basic health services for people who do not exceed the income requirement for Medicaid in Minnesota.


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).

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.

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.
We make every effort to show all available Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans in your service area. However, since our data is provided by Medicare, it is possible that this may not be a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.
But once that window closes, enrollees often find themselves locked into the plan they have – regardless of how the premium changes – because in most states, switching to another plan can be impossible or prohibitively expensive due to medical underwriting. (Under federal guidelines, there are seven limited circumstances when you can get a new Medigap plan without medical underwriting.)
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.
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.
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.
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.

Minnesota made history for kick-starting the Basic Health Program before any other state in the nation. People who are curious about “what are the Medicaid application guidelines?” will be interested to learn that prior to expansion, the process of learning how to qualify for Medicaid in MN was much more generous than it is now. The Medicaid benefits eligibility rules for adults with dependent children used to be up to 100 percent of poverty or 75 percent for adults without dependents.
If you decide you want Part A and Part B, there are 2 main ways to get your Medicare coverage — Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO). Some people get additional coverage, like Medicare prescription drug coverage or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap).Most people who are still working and have employer coverage don’t need additional coverage. Learn about these coverage choices.
Senior LinkAge Line, at 1-800-333-2433, is a free statewide service of the Minnesota Board on Aging in partnership with Minnesota’s Area Agencies on Aging. Senior LinkAge Line provides help to older Minnesotans, their families and friends, helping them connect to local services, find answers and get the help they need. The Senior LinkAge Line does not sell or market any Medicare or insurance product.  

Minnesota made history for kick-starting the Basic Health Program before any other state in the nation. People who are curious about “what are the Medicaid application guidelines?” will be interested to learn that prior to expansion, the process of learning how to qualify for Medicaid in MN was much more generous than it is now. The Medicaid benefits eligibility rules for adults with dependent children used to be up to 100 percent of poverty or 75 percent for adults without dependents.


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.
Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. But younger Americans gain Medicare eligibility after they have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months, or have ALS or end-stage renal disease. Thirteen percent of Minnesota’s Medicare beneficiaries were under age 65 as of 2017, versus 16 percent nationwide. On the high and low ends of the spectrum, 23 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi are under 65, while just 9 percent of Hawaii’s Medicare beneficiaries are eligible due to disability.
Minnesota’s Medicaid program has utilized estate recovery (required under state and federal law) since 1967 as a means of recouping Medicaid costs after an enrollee dies. The estate recovery program applies to people who were 55 or older at the time they incurred Medicaid claims, and the program allowed the state to place leins against the enrollees’ estates, so that some or all of the money would be paid back to the state.Prior to the ACA, it was
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.
Medicare Supplement insurance plans (or Medigap) are voluntary, additional coverage that helps fills the gaps in coverage for Original Medicare. The best time to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan is during your individual Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which is the six-month period that begins on the first day of the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B. If you decide to delay your enrollment in Medicare Part B for certain reasons such as having health coverage based on current employment, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will not begin until you sign up for Part B.
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.

Minnesota law prevents Medigap insurers from imposing pre-existing condition waiting periods if the enrollee signs up during their initial six-month open enrollment window. For those who apply after that, Medigap insurers are not allowed to impose pre-existing condition waiting periods if the enrollee wasn’t diagnosed or treated for the condition in the 90 days prior to enrolling in the Medigap plan.
When calling, please have your Medicare and/or current plan card available. Caregivers welcome. To explore 2019 Medicare plans on your own, visit the Medicare Plan Finder (Medicare.gov). You’ll be able to create an account, view your current plan, and explore 2019 offerings. After October 15, you’ll also be able to enroll in a plan. Take charge. Start learning about your plan options today!
If you are under 65 and receiving certain disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, after 24 months of disability benefits. The exception to this is if you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If you have ESRD and had a kidney transplant or need regular kidney dialysis, you can apply for Medicare. If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), you will automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare in the same month that your disability benefits start.
“What is Medicaid eligibility?” This question may be on your mind if you are new to the program. MN Medicaid eligibility is generally determined by the income level of the individual or household applying for Medical Assistance (MA). Individuals and families that fall within the allowable income range are eligible to receive benefits. In order to qualify for the program all applicants must meet all income and any other requirements.

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.
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. 

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.
We provide our Q1Medicare.com site for educational purposes and strive to present unbiased and accurate information. However, Q1Medicare is not intended as a substitute for your lawyer, doctor, healthcare provider, financial advisor, or pharmacist. For more information on your Medicare coverage, please be sure to seek legal, medical, pharmaceutical, or financial advice from a licensed professional or telephone Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
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.
Medicare prescription drug coverage is optional and does not occur automatically. You can receive coverage for prescription drugs by either signing up for a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage, also known as a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan. Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans are available through private insurers. Please note that you cannot have both a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan and a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.
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.
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.
A Special Needs Plan is a type of Medicare Advantage plan limited to people with certain chronic conditions and  other specific characteristics. Typically, you must receive care from health care providers and hospitals within your SNP network, except for in cases when you need emergency or urgent care and when someone who has End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) needs out-of-area kidney dialysis.
Medicare Supplement insurance plans (or Medigap) are voluntary, additional coverage that helps fills the gaps in coverage for Original Medicare. The best time to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan is during your individual Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which is the six-month period that begins on the first day of the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B. If you decide to delay your enrollment in Medicare Part B for certain reasons such as having health coverage based on current employment, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will not begin until you sign up for Part B.
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