If you have health coverage from your union or employer (current or former) when you become eligible for Medicare, you may automatically be enrolled in an MA Plan that they sponsor. You have the choice to stay with this plan, switch to Original Medicare, or enroll in a different MA Plan. Be aware that if you switch to Original Medicare or enroll in a different MA Plan, your employer or union could terminate or reduce your health benefits, the health benefits of your dependents, and any other benefits you get from your company. Talk to your employer/union and your plan before making changes to find out how your health benefits and other benefits may be affected.

In general, all persons 65 years of age or older who have been legal residents of the United States for at least five years are eligible for Medicare. People with disabilities under 65 may also be eligible if they receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Specific medical conditions may also help people become eligible to enroll in Medicare.
Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plans: These plans combine a high-deductible Medicare Advantage plan with a medical savings account. Every year, your MSA plan deposits money into a savings account that you can use to pay for medical expenses before you’ve reach the deductible. After your reach the deductible, your plan will begin to pay for Medicare-covered services. These plans don’t cover prescription drugs; if you want Medicare Part D coverage, you may enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was established as a federal agency responsible for the administration of Medicare and Medicaid. This would be renamed to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2001. By 1983, the diagnosis-related group (DRG) replaced pay for service reimbursements to hospitals for Medicare patients.
These coverage gaps mean that a particularly bad health year could leave you with tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills. That's why most people purchase  Medicare supplement insurance – also called Medigap – or enroll in Part C, a Medicare Advantage Health Plan. Both options are offered by private insurance companies. They do, however, have to follow Medicare guidelines in what they are allowed to sell.
Some beneficiaries are dual-eligible. This means they qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. In some states for those making below a certain income, Medicaid will pay the beneficiaries' Part B premium for them (most beneficiaries have worked long enough and have no Part A premium), as well as some of their out of pocket medical and hospital expenses.
Special Election Period: Generally, once you enroll into a Medicare Advantage plan, you stay enrolled in the plan until the next Annual Election Period (AEP) opens. However, there are some life events that might qualify you for a Special Election Period (SEP) during other times of the year, so you can make a change to your Medicare Advantage coverage. Some examples of these life events include (but aren’t limited to):

Part C sponsors annually submit bids that allow them to participate in the program. All bids that meet the necessary requirements are accepted. The bids are compared to the pre-determined benchmark amounts set, which are the maximum amount Medicare will pay a plan in a given county, by law. If a plan's bid is higher than the benchmark, enrollees pay the difference between the benchmark and the bid in the form of a monthly premium, in addition to the Medicare Part B premium. (Because of the county-specific nature of the framework and the bidding process leading to these differences, the same sponsor might offer the same benefits under the same brandname in adjacent counties at different prices.) If the bid is lower than the benchmark, the plan and Medicare share the difference between the bid and the benchmark; the plan's share of this amount is known as a "rebate," which must be used by the plan's sponsor to provide additional benefits or reduced costs to enrollees. A rebate cannot contribute to "profit" ("profit" is in quotes because most Medicare Advantage plans are administered by non-profit organizations, primarily integrated health delivery systems).


If you are enrolled in a Medicare plan with Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible for financial Extra Help to assist with the payment of your prescription drug premiums and drug purchases. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, call: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov; the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY users should call, 1-800-325-0778; or your state Medicaid Office.
Two distinct premium support systems have recently been proposed in Congress to control the cost of Medicare. The House Republicans' 2012 budget would have abolished traditional Medicare and required the eligible population to purchase private insurance with a newly created premium support program. This plan would have cut the cost of Medicare by capping the value of the voucher and tying its growth to inflation, which is expected to be lower than rising health costs, saving roughly $155 billion over 10 years.[125] Paul Ryan, the plan's author, claimed that competition would drive down costs,[126] but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the plan would dramatically raise the cost of health care, with all of the additional costs falling on enrollees. The CBO found that under the plan, typical 65-year-olds would go from paying 35 percent of their health care costs to paying 68 percent by 2030.[127]
Medicare Advantage offers health benefits for Medicare beneficiaries through private plans instead of through Original — or traditional — Medicare (the federal government’s fee-for-service program). These plans are one option for consumers who desire additional benefits beyond what Original Medicare offers, but are not considered a wise option by some consumers who are concerned that government spends more per enrollee on the private plans than it does on Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are available with no premium other than the cost of Part B, but they also have provider networks that are more limited than Original Medicare, and total out-of-pocket costs can be considerably higher than enrollees would pay if they had Original Medicare plus a Part D plan plus Medigap.
As a result of these changes and other administrative choices by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, per-person expenditures for beneficiaries on Parts A/B/C and those not on A/B/C reached effective parity). One such choice ended the out-of-balance PFFS plan program except for grandfathered beneficiaries. The out-of-balance Employer Group plan program was cut back beginning in 2017.
The other group of who is eligible for Medicare consists of applicants collecting disability. Any applicant who has been collecting disability for at least two years will be eligible for Medicare coverage in Minnesota. Some applicants might even have this requirement waived depending on their condition. For example, applicants with ALS will be able to collect Medicare coverage the moment they begin to get their disability benefits. Applicants who get Medicare from their disability do not have to meet any specific age requirements.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989 made several changes to physician payments under Medicare. Firstly, it introduced the Medicare Fee Schedule, which took effect in 1992. Secondly, it limited the amount Medicare non-providers could balance bill Medicare beneficiaries. Thirdly, it introduced the Medicare Volume Performance Standards (MVPS) as a way to control costs.[53]
There are other proposals for savings on prescription drugs that do not require such fundamental changes to Medicare Part D's payment and coverage policies. Manufacturers who supply drugs to Medicaid are required to offer a 15 percent rebate on the average manufacturer's price. Low-income elderly individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid receive drug coverage through Medicare Part D, and no reimbursement is paid for the drugs the government purchases for them. Reinstating that rebate would yield savings of $112 billion, according to a recent CBO estimate.[138]

Medicare is not generally an unearned entitlement. Entitlement is most commonly based on a record of contributions to the Medicare fund. As such it is a form of social insurance making it feasible for people to pay for insurance for sickness in old age when they are young and able to work and be assured of getting back benefits when they are older and no longer working. Some people will pay in more than they receive back and others will receive more benefits than they paid in. Unlike private insurance where some amount must be paid to attain coverage, all eligible persons can receive coverage regardless of how much or if they had ever paid in.

If you decide to leave a Medicare Advantage plan and return back to Original Medicare, you must notify your Medicare Advantage plan carrier. Otherwise Medicare will continue to show that you are enrolled in the Advantage plan instead of Medicare. This is a common billing nightmare that we see among people who enrolled on their own without the help of an agent.
A: In 2017, most Medicare beneficiaries can choose from a variety of plans from at least six insurance companies. The plans may have different provider networks, cover different drugs at different pharmacies, and can charge different monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and copayments or coinsurance for hospital and nursing home stays, and other services.  — Read Full Answer
Part B coverage includes out patient physician services, visiting nurse, and other services such as x-rays, laboratory and diagnostic tests, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations, blood transfusions, renal dialysis, outpatient hospital procedures, limited ambulance transportation, immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplant recipients, chemotherapy, hormonal treatments such as Lupron, and other outpatient medical treatments administered in a doctor's office. It also includes chiropractic care. Medication administration is covered under Part B if it is administered by the physician during an office visit.
In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was established as a federal agency responsible for the administration of Medicare and Medicaid. This would be renamed to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2001. By 1983, the diagnosis-related group (DRG) replaced pay for service reimbursements to hospitals for Medicare patients.
When first looking at Minnesota Medicare costs, you must first have Medicare premiums explained. Medicare plans have multiple payment types, premiums, co-pay and deductibles. MN Medicare premiums are usually referred to the most when paying for Medicare, but this is just because they are typically the first payment listed on a plan. A premium is simply how much a beneficiary has to pay every single month to get Minnesota Medicare insurance coverage. The premium has to be paid whether or not the beneficiary used any Medicare services. For Medicare Part A and B, the premium is usually around $100 to $150. Medicare Parts C and D come from private insurance companies, so the prices are based entirely on what they set.
CMS and MedPAC now believe the "like beneficiary" calculations (those on A/B vs those on A/B/C) that have been used for a decade and that underlay many changes made by PPACA and subsequent regulations are not comparative and are misleading (see slide 8 of the January 12, 2017 MedPAC session on Medicare Advantage and other discussions on this subject since that time). That is because the calculations include the increasing number of people only on Part A (primarily because they did not "retire" at 65 given the higher Social Security full retirement age but did join Medicare Part A at 65 as recommended) whereas a "like" Medicare Part C beneficiary has to be on both Parts A and Part B. On an absolute basis, in 2015 Medicare spent 4% less on Medicare Advantage and other Part C beneficiaries per person than they did per person on Medicare beneficiaries under FFS Medicare.[9] In 2014 the difference in parity on an absolute basis was 2% less per person on Part C.[10] It appears from both points of view—per "like beneficiary" and absolutely—that the latest formula delivers the original cost-saving promise of Managed Medicare. But an absolute comparison is not totally accurate either.
The first 20 days would be paid for in full by Medicare with the remaining 80 days requiring a co-payment of $167.50 per day as of 2018. Many insurance group retiree, Medigap and Part C insurance plans have a provision for additional coverage of skilled nursing care in the policies they sell. If a beneficiary uses some portion of their Part A benefit and then goes at least 60 days without receiving facility-based skilled services, the 90-day hospital clock and 100-day nursing home clock are reset and the person qualifies for new benefit periods.
Annual Election Period: The Annual Election Period (AEP) is October 15 through December 7 every year. The plan coverage you choose during the AEP begins on January 1 of the next year. It allows Medicare beneficiaries to add, change, or drop their current coverage. You can use this period to enroll into a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or switch plans. If you’re already enrolled into a Medicare plan, you can use this period to disenroll from your plan.
LTSS and Waiver clients who live in non-MMAI counties cannot enroll in HealthChoice Illinois at this time. Please see the "LTSS and Waiver Clients in non-MMAI Delay Letter" on the Enrollment Materials page for details. It has been mailed to clients affected by this change. If you have questions about the letter, please call us. Click the button below for more. 
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans: Medicare Advantage PPO plans offer a network of doctors and hospitals for beneficiaries to choose from. Unlike an HMO, you have the option to receive care from health-care providers outside of the plan’s network, but you’ll pay higher out-of-pocket costs. Medicare Advantage PPOs don’t require you to have a primary care doctor, and you don’t need referrals for specialist care.
Original "fee-for-service" Medicare Parts A and B have a standard benefit package that covers medically necessary care as described in the sections above that members can receive from nearly any hospital or doctor in the country (if that doctor or hospital accepts Medicare). Original Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in a Part C Medicare Advantage health plan instead give up none of their rights as an Original Medicare beneficiary, receive the same standard benefits—as a minimum—as provided in Original Medicare, and get an annual out of pocket (OOP) upper spending limit not included in Original Medicare. However they must typically use only a select network of providers except in emergencies, typically restricted to the area surrounding their legal residence (which can vary from tens to over 100 miles depending on county). Most Part C plans are traditional health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that require the patient to have a primary care physician, though others are preferred provider organizations (which typically means the provider restrictions are not as confining as with an HMO), and a few are actually fee for service hybrids.

This is only a summary of benefits describing the policies' most important features. The policy is the insurance contract. You must read the policy itself to understand all the rights and duties of both you and your insurance company. These policies may not fully cover all of your medical costs. Neither BCBSNC nor its agents are affiliated with Medicare. Plan A: BMS A, 12/17; Plan B: BMS B, 12/17; Plan C: BMS C, 12/17; Plan D: BMS D, 12/17; Plan F: BMS F, 12/17; Plan High-Ded F: BMS HDF, 12/17; Plan G: BMS G, 12/17; Plan K: BMS K, 12/17; Plan L: BMS L, 12/17; Plan M: BMS M, 12/17; Plan N: BMS N, 12/17. 


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.
Part C sponsors annually submit bids that allow them to participate in the program. All bids that meet the necessary requirements are accepted. The bids are compared to the pre-determined benchmark amounts set, which are the maximum amount Medicare will pay a plan in a given county, by law. If a plan's bid is higher than the benchmark, enrollees pay the difference between the benchmark and the bid in the form of a monthly premium, in addition to the Medicare Part B premium. (Because of the county-specific nature of the framework and the bidding process leading to these differences, the same sponsor might offer the same benefits under the same brandname in adjacent counties at different prices.) If the bid is lower than the benchmark, the plan and Medicare share the difference between the bid and the benchmark; the plan's share of this amount is known as a "rebate," which must be used by the plan's sponsor to provide additional benefits or reduced costs to enrollees. A rebate cannot contribute to "profit" ("profit" is in quotes because most Medicare Advantage plans are administered by non-profit organizations, primarily integrated health delivery systems).
Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.
But that has not been the case at all. Medicare Advantage enrollment continues to grow each year. There were 19 million Advantage enrollees in 2017, which is about a third of all Medicare beneficiaries, who totaled about 58 million in 2017). The number of Medicare Advantage plans available has been fairly steady since 2011 (2,034 in 2016, up from 1,945 in 2015; but down from a high of 2,830 in 2009). The majority of beneficiaries still have at least one zero-premium plan available to them, and the average enrollee could select from among 21 plans in 2018, which was slightly higher than it had been at any point since 2011 (but this is still down significantly from 48 plans in 2009).

Don't make a decision on your choice of Part D Medicare plans based on the premium and deductible alone. It's critical that you verify that your medications are covered. You find this information, and the co-payment tiers, in the formulary. On each PDP page (above) we post links to the formulary and pharmacy web pages, and the phone numbers to contact the plan.


As of 2014, Medicare paid about $7,721 annually per enrollee in Minnesota. That’s according to a standardized spending report from CMS, which eliminates spending differences that stem from strictly geographic differences in costs (eg, higher labor costs or overhead expenses in higher cost-of-living areas). The report only considers spending in Original Medicare, as opposed to Medicare Advantage.
These coverage gaps mean that a particularly bad health year could leave you with tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills. That's why most people purchase  Medicare supplement insurance – also called Medigap – or enroll in Part C, a Medicare Advantage Health Plan. Both options are offered by private insurance companies. They do, however, have to follow Medicare guidelines in what they are allowed to sell.
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 with all HMOs—no matter whether a person is on Medicare or not—persons who enroll in a Medicare Advantage or other Part C HMO cannot use certain specialist physicians or out-of-network providers without prior authorization from the HMO, except in emergencies. In almost all Medicare Advantage plans—HMO or otherwise—the beneficiary must choose a primary care physician (PCP) to provide referrals and the beneficiary must confirm that the plan authorizes the visit to which the beneficiary was referred by the PCP. As with all HMOs, this can be a problem for people who want to use out-of -network specialists or who are hospitalized and are forced to use out-of-network doctors while hospitalized. Many Medicare Advantage PPO plans permit a subscriber to use any physician or hospital without prior authorization, but at a somewhat higher expense.
Under the 2003 law that created Medicare Part D, the Social Security Administration offers an Extra Help program to lower-income seniors such that they have almost no drug costs; in addition approximately 25 states offer additional assistance on top of Part D. It should be noted again for beneficiaries who are dual-eligible (Medicare and Medicaid eligible) Medicaid may pay for drugs not covered by Part D of Medicare. Most of this aid to lower-income seniors was available to them through other programs before Part D was implemented.
Payment for physician services under Medicare has evolved since the program was created in 1965. Initially, Medicare compensated physicians based on the physician's charges, and allowed physicians to bill Medicare beneficiaries the amount in excess of Medicare's reimbursement. In 1975, annual increases in physician fees were limited by the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). The MEI was designed to measure changes in costs of physician's time and operating expenses, adjusted for changes in physician productivity. From 1984 to 1991, the yearly change in fees was determined by legislation. This was done because physician fees were rising faster than projected.
Medicare Part C is available through Medicare Advantage plans, and is an alternative to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Medicare Advantage plans are health insurance plans offered by private health insurance companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage health plans (such as HMOs and PPOs) are legally required to offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, but can include additional coverage as well, such as routine vision or dental benefits, health wellness programs, or prescription drugs.
Medicare Part C is available through Medicare Advantage plans, and is an alternative to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Medicare Advantage plans are health insurance plans offered by private health insurance companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage health plans (such as HMOs and PPOs) are legally required to offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, but can include additional coverage as well, such as routine vision or dental benefits, health wellness programs, or prescription drugs.
Some people don’t realize this and join Medicare Advantage plans without the help of an agent. Therefore they  don’t know about all of these rules. Sometimes they find themselves enrolled into a plan that their doctor doesn’t accept or that doesn’t include one of their medications. This happens most often in January after a person has used the Annual Election Period to join a Medicare Advantage plan.

Nearly one in three dollars spent on Medicare flows through one of several cost-reduction programs.[21] Cost reduction is influenced by factors including reduction in inappropriate and unnecessary care by evaluating evidence-based practices as well as reducing the amount of unnecessary, duplicative, and inappropriate care. Cost reduction may also be effected by reducing medical errors, investment in healthcare information technology, improving transparency of cost and quality data, increasing administrative efficiency, and by developing both clinical/non-clinical guidelines and quality standards.[22]
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