‘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 >


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.
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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.

As an alternative to obtaining Original Medicare coverage directly from the government, you may want to consider Medicare Advantage (sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C) in Minnesota. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with CMS to provide all Original Medicare benefits except hospice care, which is paid by Medicare Part A. Many Medicare Advantage plans also include extra benefits such as routine dental and vision care.


Since 1997, Minnesota has provided Medicare coverage for approximately 35,000 Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals over age 65 through the Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO) program. Today, the Minnesota demonstration recognizes this program stability and is focused on administrative flexibility rather than developing a new capitated system. The current demonstration will be evaluated for its ability to further promote integration. However, the longevity of the MSHO program provides for unique data analysis opportunities. MSHO claims data are a rich resource for researchers to analyze the impact of integrated care on health care outcomes for Medicare-Medicaid eligible.  To that end, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) published Minnesota Managed Care Longitudinal Data Analysis which highlights the importance of providing integrated options for Medicare-Medicaid eligible individuals. It may be found at this link: https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/minnesota-managed-care-longitudinal-data-analysis
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.
A Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) can help pay your prescription drug costs. Designed to work alongside Original Medicare coverage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare and doing business in Minnesota. You can also enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include Part D prescription drug coverage in its benefits.
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.

People who aren’t yet 65 can enroll in Medicare if they’re disabled and have been receiving disability benefits for at least two years, and 13 percent of Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries are under age 65. Federal rules do not guarantee access to Medigap plans for people who are under 65, but the majority of the states — including Minnesota — have implemented rules to ensure that disabled Medicare beneficiaries have at least some access to Medigap plans. Minnesota law grants a six-month open enrollment period to anyone who enrolls in Medicare Part B, regardless of age (federal rules only grant this window to people who enroll in Part B and are also at least 65 years old).


A Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) can help pay your prescription drug costs. Designed to work alongside Original Medicare coverage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare and doing business in Minnesota. You can also enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include Part D prescription drug coverage in its benefits.
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 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.

A Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) can help pay your prescription drug costs. Designed to work alongside Original Medicare coverage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare and doing business in Minnesota. You can also enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include Part D prescription drug coverage in its benefits.


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.
Now that you have an idea of the type of Medicare plan options for Minnesotans, would you like some assistance looking for a plan that fits? I’d be happy to help, and you can click on the “View profile” link below to view my profile if you’d like. How about setting up a phone call with me, or having me send you some information by email? You can click on the links below to do that. Some folks prefer to research plans on their own; you can do that easily by clicking on the Compare Plans option on the right.
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