‘This year will be different’ OCTOBER 1, 2019 WRITTEN BY JIM PALMER Medicare made simple!  Breitenfeldt Group provides service, selection all in one place “This year will be different,” said Dennis Breitenfeldt, owner of Breitenfeldt Group, referring to the big changes in Medicare last fall that resulted in 400,000 Minnesotans losing their coverage. “A lot of people lost their plans last year and… READ MORE >
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.
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.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.
In all but three states, Medigap plans are standardized under federal rules. But Minnesota is one of three states that have federal waivers that allow the state to do its own Medigap standardization. So instead of the ten Medigap plans (A through N) that are marketed in most states, Minnesota Medigap plans include Basic, Basic with riders, Extended Basic, and Medigap plans F, K, L, M, and N. There are also Medicare Select Medigap plans in Minnesota, just as there are in other states.
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.
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).
Medicare Part D is optional prescription drug coverage. If you have Original Medicare, you can get this coverage through a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, offered through private Medicare-approved insurance companies. These plans offer stand-alone prescription drug coverage that work alongside Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. A Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan also provides the Medicare Part D benefit, covering all Medicare benefits under a single plan.
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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.
The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) may be helpful for seniors seeking a wide range of information. The office provides education in a broad range of areas, including health-care coverage and Medicare plans. The office was first established in 1956. Since that time, seniors have been able to turn to the Minnesota Board of Aging for a variety of programs, including:
As of 2018, there were 370,000 Medicare Cost plan enrollees in Minnesota, but most of them had to switch to new plans (either Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare) for 2019. This is described in more detail below, but Minnesota’s enrollment in private Medicare plans could end up fluctuating significantly for 2019, depending on how many of those enrollees opted to have coverage under Original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage.
The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) may be helpful for seniors seeking a wide range of information. The office provides education in a broad range of areas, including health-care coverage and Medicare plans. The office was first established in 1956. Since that time, seniors have been able to turn to the Minnesota Board of Aging for a variety of programs, including:
Private Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to Original Medicare. There are pros and cons to either option, and the right solution is different for each person. Plan availability varies by county, but Minnesota’s market is robust: Residents throughout the state can select from among at least 13 Advantage plans in 2019, and some counties have as many as 40 plans for sale.
In all but three states, Medigap plans are standardized under federal rules. But Minnesota is one of three states that have federal waivers that allow the state to do its own Medigap standardization. So instead of the ten Medigap plans (A through N) that are marketed in most states, Minnesota Medigap plans include Basic, Basic with riders, Extended Basic, and Medigap plans F, K, L, M, and N. There are also Medicare Select Medigap plans in Minnesota, just as there are in other states.
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