Medicare Cost Plans are Ending in Most Minnesota Counties
Due to a change in federal law, Medicare Cost Plans will end in counties where there are two or more Medicare Advantage plans that meet enrollment numbers. In 2019, Medicare Cost Plans will only be available in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Goodhue, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Le Sueur, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Pine, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Sibley, St. Louis, Stevens, Traverse and Yellow Medicine counties.
More than 400,000 Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Cost Plans, which have been the most popular Medicare health plan option for decades. This is because Cost Plan enrollees have the flexibility of using providers who participate in a network for full coverage, but still using Original Medicare benefits for coverage when seeing a provider outside of the network. While not all Minnesotans on Cost Plans will need to change plans, the majority will be affected.
Due to changes in state law and the expansion of Medicare Advantage plans and Medigap policies in Minnesota, there will be more options in Minnesota than ever before. In addition, Cost Plan enrollees affected by the change will have extended periods to purchase a Medigap policy or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.
To review a copy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Landscape that includes all plans for all states, go to www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn.
What Medicare Beneficiaries Need to Know
There are several things all Minnesotans on Medicare need to know, even if they are not affected by the Cost Plan changes.
Current Medicare Advantage and Cost Plans have changes, including cost-sharing, formulary and provider changes. It is important that Medicare beneficiaries review their plans and options to make sure that the plan they have for 2018 will work for them in 2019.
There are many new plans in Minnesota for 2019, so reviewing options is more important than ever. In addition, there are some premium-free plans available. These may still have other cost sharing, such as copays, deductibles and coinsurance, so it is important to compare.
Every Medicare beneficiary who is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan for 2019 will have a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period from January 1 to March 31, 2019. During this time, Medicare Advantage plan enrollees can change to another Medicare Advantage plan or disenroll from their plan and return to Original Medicare and purchase a Medicare Part D plan. Only one choice can be made during this time period.
It is important to note that most Medicare beneficiaries will not have a guaranteed issue period to purchase a Medigap during this time. This means they can be health screened and denied the purchase of a Medigap. The only group that will have Medigap guaranteed issue rights are Cost Plan enrollees affected by the ending of their plan; these rights extend only through March 4, 2019.
Senior LinkAge Line and Other Help for Medicare Beneficiaries
Due to the unprecedented Medicare changes happening in Minnesota, call volume to the Senior LinkAge Line is expected to be much higher than normal during open enrollment. To help meet this demand, the Senior LinkAge Line has increased staff and expanded its hours to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday. Even with these changes, wait times are anticipated to be longer than normal. To help manage the volume and ensure beneficiaries and caregivers get help, we offer these tips:
- Call 1-800-Medicare for assistance. They are ready to help with the Cost Plan transition.
- Call a trusted insurance agent or broker for help reviewing options and choosing a new plan or purchasing a policy.
- Those with Internet access can use the www.Medicare.gov Plan Finder to review options and enroll in a plan.
- Call the different plans to get information about their provider participation and preferred pharmacy network. The plans can also assist beneficiaries with enrollment.
- Before calling the Senior LinkAge Line, a plan or insurance agent, prepare a complete list of prescription drugs and dosages. This will allow them to better assist with reviewing options.
- When calling the Senior LinkAge Line for help with Medicare, press 2 to be routed to a Medicare specialist.
Thank you for your patience as we do our best to help Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers make these important decisions for 2019.
Health Care Choices 2019
The expanded edition of the Health Care Choices for Minnesotans on Medicare publication is now available electronically at mnhealthcarechoices.com. It includes all Part D, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Cost Plans and Medigap policies available in Minnesota in 2019.
Printed copies of the Health Care Choices are available. To request a copy, call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433 and press option 4. Leave your name and address and a copy will be mailed to you.