The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPACA") of 2010 made a number of changes to the Medicare program. Several provisions of the law were designed to reduce the cost of Medicare. The most substantial provisions slowed the growth rate of payments to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities under Parts A of Medicare, through a variety of methods (e.g., arbitrary percentage cuts, penalties for readmissions).
Some Medicare supplemental insurance (or "Medigap") plans cover all of an enrollee's cost-sharing, insulating them from any out-of-pocket costs and guaranteeing financial security to individuals with significant health care needs. Many policymakers believe that such plans raise the cost of Medicare by creating a perverse incentive that leads patients to seek unnecessary, costly treatments. Many argue that unnecessary treatments are a major cause of rising costs and propose that people with Medicare should feel more of the cost of their care to create incentives to seek the most efficient alternatives. Various restrictions and surcharges on Medigap coverage have appeared in recent deficit reduction proposals. One of the furthest-reaching reforms proposed, which would prevent Medigap from covering any of the first $500 of coinsurance charges and limit it to covering 50 percent of all costs beyond that, could save $50 billion over 10 years. But it would also increase health care costs substantially for people with costly health care needs.
What Medicare covers in Minnesota is determined entirely by the plan. Medicare Part A coverage is focused primarily on hospital insurance. Some of the services that are covered by Medicare Part A include inpatient hospital care, some nursing facility costs, limited home health services, and some hospice cares. The most important factor for determining Medicare Part A coverage in Minnesota is whether or not a doctor recommended it. For example, the coverage could extend to physical or occupational therapy, if recommended by a doctor. Anything that is not strictly recommended will not be covered.
There are two ways for providers to be reimbursed in Medicare. "Participating" providers accept "assignment," which means that they accept Medicare's approved rate for their services as payment (typically 80% from Medicare and 20% from the beneficiary). Some non participating doctors do not take assignment, but they also treat Medicare enrollees and are authorized to balance bill no more than a small fixed amount above Medicare's approved rate. A minority of doctors are "private contractors," which means they opt out of Medicare and refuse to accept Medicare payments altogether. These doctors are required to inform patients that they will be liable for the full cost of their services out-of-pocket in advance of treatment.
Because the federal government is legally obligated to provide Medicare benefits to older and disabled Americans, it cannot cut costs by restricting eligibility or benefits, except by going through a difficult legislative process, or by revising its interpretation of medical necessity. By statute, Medicare may only pay for items and services that are "reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body member", unless there is another statutory authorization for payment. Cutting costs by cutting benefits is difficult, but the program can also achieve substantial economies of scale in terms of the prices it pays for health care and administrative expenses—and, as a result, private insurers' costs have grown almost 60% more than Medicare's since 1970.[Original research?] Medicare's cost growth is now the same as GDP growth and expected to stay well below private insurance's for the next decade.
All Medicare Advantage Plans must include a limit on your out-of-pocket expenses for Part A and B services. For example, the maximum out-of-pocket cost for HMO plans in 2018 is $6,700. These limits tend to be high. In addition, while plans cannot charge higher copayments or coinsurances than Original Medicare for certain services, like chemotherapy and dialysis, they can charge higher cost-sharing for other services.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans: One of the most popular types of managed-care plans, this type of Medicare Advantage plan comes with a provider network that you must use to be covered by the plan (with the exception of medical emergencies). If you use non-network providers, you may have to pay the full cost for your care. You’re also required to have a primary care physician; if you need to see a specialist, you’ll need to a get a referral from your primary care doctor first.
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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.
If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Read our Medicare publication for more information.