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.
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 most instances, prescription drug coverage is included in Medicare Advantage plans, with the exception of the MSA plan. If you want to have prescription drug coverage and you’re choosing an HMO or PPO Medicare Advantage plan, it’s important to select a plan that includes prescription coverage (most of them do), because you can’t purchase stand-alone Medicare Part D (drug coverage) if you have an HMO or PPO Advantage plan. SNPs are required to cover prescriptions. PFFS plans sometimes cover prescriptions, but if you have one that doesn’t, you can supplement it with a Medicare Part D plan.
For institutional care, such as hospital and nursing home care, Medicare uses prospective payment systems. In a prospective payment system, the health care institution receives a set amount of money for each episode of care provided to a patient, regardless of the actual amount of care. The actual allotment of funds is based on a list of diagnosis-related groups (DRG). The actual amount depends on the primary diagnosis that is actually made at the hospital. There are some issues surrounding Medicare's use of DRGs because if the patient uses less care, the hospital gets to keep the remainder. This, in theory, should balance the costs for the hospital. However, if the patient uses more care, then the hospital has to cover its own losses. This results in the issue of "upcoding," when a physician makes a more severe diagnosis to hedge against accidental costs.
Medicare Part C in Minnesota offers the same coverage as Medicare Part A and B. The reason that applicants might want Medicare Part C over any of the other plans is because it comes from a private insurance company. Applicants have more freedom in pricing, since they can shop with multiple providers. Certain plans might have more appealing payments, such as lower premiums or offering more appealing co-pays on specific services.
MA plans feature a network of doctors and hospitals that enrollees must use to get the maximum payment, whereas supplements tend to provide access to a broader set of health care providers, said Shawnee Christenson, an insurance agent with Crosstown Insurance in New Hope. While that might sound good to beneficiaries, supplements can come with significantly higher premiums, Christenson said.
That’s what the Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) program is all about: it gives you an alternative way to receive your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage (everything except hospice care, which Part A still covers). Some Medicare Advantage plans include additional benefits as well – prescription drug coverage, for example, or routine dental services and/or fitness programs. These are just a few examples of additional benefits that some Medicare Advantage plans offer – benefits not included in Original Medicare.
Medicare has four parts: Part A is Hospital Insurance. Part B is Medical Insurance. Medicare Part D covers many prescription drugs, though some are covered by Part B. In general, the distinction is based on whether or not the drugs are self-administered. Part C health plans, the most popular of which are branded Medicare Advantage, are another way for Original Medicare (Part A and B) beneficiaries to receive their Part A, B and D benefits. All Medicare benefits are subject to medical necessity.
Over the long-term, Medicare faces significant financial challenges because of rising overall health care costs, increasing enrollment as the population ages, and a decreasing ratio of workers to enrollees. Total Medicare spending is projected to increase from $523 billion in 2010 to around $900 billion by 2020. From 2010 to 2030, Medicare enrollment is projected to increase from 47 million to 79 million, and the ratio of workers to enrollees is expected to decrease from 3.7 to 2.4. However, the ratio of workers to retirees has declined steadily for decades, and social insurance systems have remained sustainable due to rising worker productivity. There is some evidence that productivity gains will continue to offset demographic trends in the near future.
Overall health care costs were projected in 2011 to increase by 5.8 percent annually from 2010 to 2020, in part because of increased utilization of medical services, higher prices for services, and new technologies. Health care costs are rising across the board, but the cost of insurance has risen dramatically for families and employers as well as the federal government. In fact, since 1970 the per-capita cost of private coverage has grown roughly one percentage point faster each year than the per-capita cost of Medicare. Since the late 1990s, Medicare has performed especially well relative to private insurers. Over the next decade, Medicare's per capita spending is projected to grow at a rate of 2.5 percent each year, compared to private insurance's 4.8 percent. Nonetheless, most experts and policymakers agree containing health care costs is essential to the nation's fiscal outlook. Much of the debate over the future of Medicare revolves around whether per capita costs should be reduced by limiting payments to providers or by shifting more costs to Medicare enrollees.
The 2003 payment formulas succeeded in increasing the percentage of rural and inner city poor that could take advantage of the OOP limit and lower co-pays and deductibles—as well as the coordinated medical care—associated with Part C plans. In practice however, one set of Medicare beneficiaries received more benefits than others. The differences caused by the 2003-law payment formulas were almost completely eliminated by PPACA and have been almost totally phased out according to the 2018 MedPAC annual report, March 2018. One remaining special-payment-formula program—designed primarily for unions wishing to sponsor a Part C plan—is being phased out beginning in 2017. In 2013 and since, on average a Part C beneficiary cost the Medicare Trust Funds 2%-5% less than a beneficiary on traditional fee for service Medicare, completely reversing the situation in 2006-2009 right after implementation of the 2003 law and restoring the capitated fee vs fee for service funding balance to its original intended parity level.
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.
Once you submit your application, it will be sent to your local county human services agency for a determination if you seem likely to qualify for Medi-Cal. If more information is needed, the county will contact you. During the next 45 days, the county will mail you a notice telling you if you qualify for Medi-Cal. If you are eligible, you will receive a Medi-Cal benefits identification card (BIC) in the mail (if you do not already have one). You will also receive an informational packet in the mail that explains the available Medi-Cal health plan options in your county and how to enroll.
As you might be aware, the Part D coverage gap, also known as the donut hole, is with us for one more year. The new healthcare law is gradually doing away with the coverage gap. Until the donut hole is gone for good in 2020, you can save money on prescriptions that are not covered by a Minnesota PDP by downloading a Pharmacy Discount Card or coupons. We recommend GoodRx.com.