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.

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.
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.

Minnesota is one of just three states in the country (Massachusetts and Wisconsin are the others) that offers its own version of Medicare Supplement insurance. Minnesota has two plans available: the Minnesota Basic Plan and the Minnesota Extended Basic Plan. In  most other states, up to 10 types of standardized plans are available. Medicare Supplement plans are also known as Medigap policies and may help pay Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments and deductibles.
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.
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In the 1980s, in an effort to control costs, Minnesota began implementing PMAP, or pre-paid medical assistance programs.  PMAPs provide blocks of Medicaid funding to non-profit HMOs and a variety of rural health programs across the state. The program was instituted as a demonstration project in 1983, but has continued to be the mechanism by which Medicaid funds are dispersed to providers in Minnesota for three decades.
Surprisingly, a large percentage of these new enrollees were not newly eligible. In fact, they had always been eligible, they just were not well-versed on the topic of “What are the Medicaid application guidelines?” Enrollment figures shrunk from 1,066,787 to 1,019,309 by August 2015, before creeping back up to 1,026,023 in July the following year.
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.
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.
People in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan should always review the materials their plans send them, like the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC). If their plans are changing, they should make sure their plans will still meet their needs for the following year. If they’re satisfied that their current plans will meet their needs for next year and it’s still being offered, they don’t need to do anything.
Once you feel fully informed about how to qualify for Medicaid in MN and how to follow the application guidelines for Medicaid, all that will be left to do is apply and enroll. Missing out on the marketplace’s open enrollment period does not mean that beneficiaries will be lacking insurance for long, because if qualifying events occur, Special Enrolment Periods (SEP) may launch. Minnesota shares Medicaid benefit requirements with other states that allow enrollment during SEPs, in the sense that the triggering events for SEPs are the same.
Just because a person is able to answer the question “what are the requirements for Medicaid in MN?” it does not mean that he or she will meet the Medicaid eligibility requirements in Minnesota. Visiting Medicaid offices around Minnesota and talking to a member of staff will clear up any misunderstanding about Medicaid qualifications and Medicaid requirements.

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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”

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.
“What are the income requirements for Medicaid in MN?” will probably be a question on your mind ahead of the application stage. Coverage up to 200% FPL is available under Medicaid expansion and MNCare. Nine health organizations across the state supply coverage through this specific program and by learning how to qualify for Medicaid in Minnesota, newly eligible residents can enroll in the program. Recipients must know the Medicaid eligibility requirements to take advantage of the benefits administered by state governments.
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.
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.
Most people should enroll in Part A when they turn 65, even if they have health insurance from an employer. This is because most people paid Medicare taxes while they worked so they don't pay a monthly premium for Part A. Certain people may choose to delay Part B. In most cases, it depends on the type of health coverage you may have. Everyone pays a monthly premium for Part B. The premium varies depending on your income and when you enroll in Part B. Most people will pay the standard premium amount of 
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.
Prior to the ACA, the vast majority of adults 55 or older who were covered by Medicaid were elderly, low-income residents who needed long-term care (Medicare does not cover long-term care, but Medicaid does if the person’s income and assets are low enough). But starting in 2014, large numbers of residents — many of whom were 55 or older — became eligible for Medicaid, and many were caught off-guard when they found out that leins were being filed against their estates.
It is extremely important to evaluate all options when making a decision about Medigap plans in Minnesota. In Minnesota, Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are available throughout the state as either a Medigap Basic plan or Medigap Extended Basic plan. However, the costs may be different based on which insurance carrier offers the plans. Those who wish to enroll in a Minnesota Medicare Supplement Insurance plan should thoroughly evaluate all available plans and make a determination based on personal health needs and budget.
Original Medicare does not limit out-of-pocket costs, so most enrollees maintain some form of supplemental coverage. Nationwide, more than half of Original Medicare beneficiaries get their supplemental coverage through an employer-sponsored plan or Medicaid. But for those who don’t, Medigap plans (also known as Medicare supplement plans, or MedSupp) will pay some or all of the out-of-pocket costs they would otherwise have to pay if they had only Original Medicare.
Make note, the Medically Needy Pathway does not assist one in spending down extra assets for Medicaid qualification. Said another way, if one meets the income requirements for Medicaid eligibility, but not the asset requirement, the above program cannot assist one in “spending down” extra assets. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on ones that are non-countable, such as home modifications to improve safety and make the home wheelchair accessible. Examples include adding wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, pedestal sinks, roll-in showers, widening the doorways, and replacing carpet with vinyl or laminate flooring. One may also use excess assets to prepay funeral and burial expenses and pay off debt. As mentioned above, one cannot simply give away assets or sell them for significantly less than their value, as Minnesota has a 5-year Medicaid Look-Back Period that prevents applicants from doing so. If one is found in violation of the look-back period, this may result in a period of ineligibility.
5. Reflects Medicaid state plan coverage of the eligibility group for parents and other caretaker relatives. Parents and caretaker relatives with income over the income standard for coverage under this group may be eligible for coverage in the adult group in states that have expanded to cover the adult group. In states that use dollar amounts based on household size, rather than percentages of the FPL, to determine eligibility for parents, we converted those amounts to a percentage of the FPL and selected the highest percentage to reflect the eligibility level for the group.

A federal law passed in 2003 created a “competition” requirement for Medicare Cost plans, which stipulated the plans could not be offered in service areas where there was significant competition from Medicare Advantage plans. Congress delayed implementation of the requirement several times until a law passed in 2015 that called for the rule to take effect in 2019.


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.
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)
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.
More than 44 million individuals in the U.S. are enrolled in Medicare, and Medicare eligibility in Minnesota is high, with more than 746,500 people receiving Medicare benefits. That means approximately 14 percent of the state’s total population is eligible for Medicare, with over 237,000 individuals enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and 753,000 people receiving Medicare Part D to help cover the cost of their prescriptions.
Medigap plans are standardized, which means that a Plan F in Vermont provides the same benefits as a Plan F in Florida. But in 2010, average premiums for plan F (the most popular choice among Medigap enrollees) ranged from $139/month in Hawaii to $226/month in New York. A Business Insider analysis of average 2016 Medigap Plan F premiums for 65-year-old enrollees found a variation from $109/month in Hawaii to $162/month in Massachusetts.
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.
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.

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.


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.
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.
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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