Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) - Part A helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, including critical access hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities (not custodial or long-term care). It also helps cover hospice care and some home health care. Beneficiaries must meet certain conditions to get these benefits. Most people don't pay a premium for Part A because they or a spouse already paid for it through their payroll taxes while working.
The most significant change to the Medicare program, since its enactment in 1965, began on Jan. 1, 2006. Medicare now has a prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D). In the fall of each year, all Minnesotans with Medicare receive information about the Medicare Part D program and the Annual Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. Agencies, organizations and people that work with Minnesotans with Medicare will want to be kept apprised of the latest Part D information and its effect on Minnesotans with Medicare.
Part B Late Enrollment Penalty If you don't sign up for Part B when you're first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare. Your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn't sign up for it. Usually, you don't pay a late enrollment penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part B during a special enrollment period.[71]
Advantage plan benefits may change every year. In September, you will receive a packet from your Part C insurance company telling you what is changing. The plan’s benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, provider network, premium and/or co-payments and co-insurance may change on January 1 of each year. Will you be diligent enough to review your annual packet and communicate with your agent if you have concerns about the changes?
Special Needs Plans (SNP): Special Needs Plans are for beneficiaries with certain unique situations and meet certain eligibility criteria. These plans may limit membership to people who have certain chronic conditions, live in an institution (such as a nursing home), or are dual eligibles (receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits). You must meet the eligibility requirements of the Special Needs Plan to enroll; for example, to enroll in a Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plan in your service area, you must have both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
Every person is different, so you’ll want to carefully research Medicare Advantage plan options in light of your specific health needs and budget. Keep in mind that plan costs, benefits, service areas, and provider networks may all change from year to year, so it’s a good idea to review your coverage every year and make sure it’s still a good fit for your situation. Taking the time to shop around and compare Medicare Advantage plan options in your area could save you money on out-of-pocket costs.
The highest penalties on hospitals are charged after knee or hip replacements, $265,000 per excess readmission.[31] The goals are to encourage better post-hospital care and more referrals to hospice and end-of-life care in lieu of treatment,[32][33] while the effect is also to reduce coverage in hospitals that treat poor and frail patients.[34][35] The total penalties for above-average readmissions in 2013 are $280 million,[36] for 7,000 excess readmissions, or $40,000 for each readmission above the US average rate.[37]
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.[72] 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.[citation needed][Original research?][73] Medicare's cost growth is now the same as GDP growth and expected to stay well below private insurance's for the next decade.[74]

A: In the initial phase of Part D coverage, you pay roughly 25 percent of the plan's cost for the drug. When you and the drug plan have paid a total of $3,700 for drugs in 2017, you enter the coverage gap or doughnut During this second phase, you will pay no more than 40 percent of the plan's price for a brand-name drug and 51 percent for a generic drug. — Read Full Answer


Medicare contracts with regional insurance companies to process over one billion fee-for-service claims per year. In 2008, Medicare accounted for 13% ($386 billion) of the federal budget. In 2016 it is projected to account for close to 15% ($683 billion) of the total expenditures. For the decade 2010–2019 Medicare is projected to cost 6.4 trillion dollars.[51]
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.
It is extremely important to evaluate all options when making a decision about Medigap plans in Minnesota. In Minnesota, Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are available throughout the state as either a Medigap Basic plan or Medigap Extended Basic plan. However, the costs may be different based on which insurance carrier offers the plans. Those who wish to enroll in a Minnesota Medicare Supplement Insurance plan should thoroughly evaluate all available plans and make a determination based on personal health needs and budget.
Blue Cross plans on sending letters in early July notifying about 200,000 subscribers who stand to lose their Medicare Cost plans. Minnetonka-based Medica, which started sending letters last week, expects that about 66,000 members will need to select a new plan. Officials with Bloomington-based HealthPartners say the insurer sent letters to about 34,000 enrollees this month explaining the change.
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).
And Minnesota residents also account two-thirds of the national total enrollment in Medicare Cost plans. The state was the first to participate in a demonstration program to pilot Medicare Cost plans in the 1970s, and the plans have remained popular over the decades. They didn’t catch on in many other states, however, and Medicare + Choice came on the national scene in the 1990s, replaced by Medicare Advantage in 2003 (there are still Medicare Cost plans in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, but their total enrollment is only about a third of the 625,072 people who have Medicare Cost plans in 2018 — the other two-thirds are in Minnesota).
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.
SNP (Special Needs Plans): Are especially for people who have certain special needs. The three different SNP plans cover Medicare beneficiaries living in institutions, those who are dual-eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or HIV/AIDS. This type of plan always includes prescription drug coverage.
Beneficiaries are primarily defaulted because they do not receive the enrollment packet, they do not understand the information because it was sent in English and they speak another language, or they submitted an incomplete enrollment form. Some are defaulted due to administrative and processing errors. Beneficiaries that are defaulted are not prevented from later choosing a health plan of their choice.
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.

Most Advantage plans charge monthly premiums in addition to the Part B premium (you have to pay the Part B premium in addition to your Advantage premium, even if you’re in a “zero premium” Advantage plan). Some plans have deductibles, others do not. But all Medicare Advantage plans must limit maximum out-of-pocket (not counting prescriptions) to no more than $6,700 in 2018 (unchanged from 2016 and 2017; CMS will be using new methodology to set maximum out-of-pocket limits for Medicare Advantage plans as of 2020). Many plans have out-of-pocket limits below this threshold however, so it’s important to consider the maximum out-of-pocket when comparing policies. The median out-of-pocket amount for Medicare Advantage plans in 2016 was $5,800. This was a 3.5 percent increase from 2015’s median out-of-pocket limit, but it’s still well below the maximum allowed by law.
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.
The plan that was best for you over the past year may not be the best one next year. That may be because the drugs you take or the doctors you see have changed. Or it may be because the coverage has changed under your plan for next year—your drugs may be moving to a more expensive pricing tier with higher co-payments, or your doctors may be leaving your Medicare Advantage plan’s network. Or new plans may be introduced in your area that are a better match for you. Mutual of Omaha is entering the Part D market in several states, for example, and more insurers are introducing prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage plans with lower premiums. Because you can change plans every year, you can focus specifically on your drugs and dosages or the type of health care you need now; you can switch again next year if your needs or your options change.
If you enroll in one right out of the gate at age 65, you need to be sure you want this coverage long-term. Your open enrollment window to get a Medigap plan with no health questions ends at 6 months past your Part B effective date. You might not be able to get a Medigap plan later if you have health conditions because applying for Medigap later will require you answer medical questions. You can be turned down for Medigap at that point if you are not healthy enough to qualify.
Even when you enroll in Medicare, your out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays can be significant. This is especially true in Minnesota where health insurance premiums vary based on location and population density. It is important to consider options that can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Medicare supplements (also known as Medigap), Medicare managed-care style health plans (Advantage and Cost plans) and Part D plans can provide you the coverage and protection you may need. These additional plans must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Insurance, so you can rest assured that all plans meet the established criteria.

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.


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.

Most but not all Medicare Advantage plans (and many of the other public managed-care health plans within Medicare Part C) include integrated self-administered drug coverage similar to the standalone Part D prescription drug benefit plan. The federal government makes separate capitated-fee payments to Medicare Advantage plans for providing these Part-D-like benefits if applicable just as it does for anyone on Original Medicare using Part D.
Medicare has been operated for a half century and, during that time, has undergone several changes. Since 1965, the program's provisions have expanded to include benefits for speech, physical, and chiropractic therapy in 1972.[12] Medicare added the option of payments to health maintenance organizations (HMO)[12] in the 1980s. As the years progressed, Congress expanded Medicare eligibility to younger people with permanent disabilities and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments and to those with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The association with HMOs begun in the 1980s was formalized under President Bill Clinton in 1997 as Medicare Part C (although not all Part C health plans sponsors have to be HMOs, about 75% are). In 2003, under President George W. Bush, a Medicare program for covering almost all self administered prescription drugs was passed (and went into effect in 2006) as Medicare Part D (previously and still, professionally administered drugs such as chemotherapy but even the annual flu shot are covered under Part B).
×