Cost Plans for Medicare to end, experts say there are still options

Published 6:01 am Friday, October 19, 2018

Mower County will be one of 66 counties where Medicare Cost Plans will not be available in 2019  because of a change in federal law which requires all health insurance companies to stop offering Cost Plans in the majority of the state’s counties.

Because of this, advisers strongly recommend their clients to sit down with a broker and discuss what plans they have available to them, and to understand what plans would be the best based on their budget and what their specific medical needs are.

“They went from having three options to now just having two,” said Charles Moline, an AdvisorNet financial consultant. “The cost plan was the most popular selling plan available in many counties in Minnesota.”

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A Medicare Cost Plan is a type of Medicare coverage and because of changes in federal law, Cost Plans won’t be available for many Minnesota seniors after 2018. If someone was affected, they would need to to enroll in new Medicare coverage for 2019, according to the Minnesota Commerce Department.

In Minnesota, Cost Plans are offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners and Medica and were offered under various brand names. Customers can call the number on the back of their health plan member card (which is different from your Medicare card) to see if you have a Cost Plan.

Moline couldn’t emphasize more about the importance of having a second opinion with an adviser before locking in a plan that may not be right for them.

“Many are anxious about the changes,” he said. “Sit down with us, and that help comes with no cost to them. Assistance comes at no cost. I really encourage people to do some research and really making sure they’re getting the best plan available to them for their money.”

More than 400,000 older Minnesotans will be affected once this change goes into effect next year. However, for 21 counties, their Cost Plans will continue to be available.

What if I don’t have a Cost Plan?

Then a customer doesn’t have to do anything. These specific changes wouldn’t affect them.

What if I’m in one of the 21 counties that still has Cost Plans next year?

Then you don’t have to do anything to keep your Cost Plan. Back in September, you should have received a yearly notice from your current insurer with any changes in premiums or benefits, and renewal for 2019 is automatic. However, a customer does have the choice of changing coverage during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2018.

What will my options be?

Although Cost Plans are disappearing for the majority of seniors in Minnesota, there are still two plan options available for seniors to consider: Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplement (Medigap) plans for 2019. Moline emphasized that it was important for those looking at options to choose a plan that best fits their health needs, lifestyle and budget.

Both the Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement plans work with the customer’s original Medicare benefits in several different ways and eligibility requirements. Features, benefits, cost and networks also differ by plan.

If I am told by my insurer that I am being automatically transitioned into a Medicare Advantage plan for 2019

A Cost Plan insurer should have sent a notification letter by Sept. 15, 2018, about offering an automatic transition, which is when a customer’s insurer offered a Medicare Advantage plan that was the close to a customer’s current Cost Plan. A customer still has an option of choosing different coverage with another insurer during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2018), according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

What if I have a Cost Plan, and I’m not being automatically transitioned for a Medicare Advantage plan for 2019?

You would need to enroll in new coverage for 2019 by Dec. 31, 2018. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or purchase a Medicare Supplement policy to go with Original Medicare (Parts A & B) for coverage that starts on Jan. 1, 2019. A customer could also purchase a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, unless it’s offered as part of the Medicare Advantage plan that was selected.

According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, if a customer doesn’t enroll in a new plan, they will automatically return to Original Medicare (Parts A & B only) on Jan. 1, with significant coverage gaps and costs.

Timeline for Medicare Cost Plan Transition

Oct. 15- Dec. 7 (2019 Medicare Annual Enrollment Period)

The time when any Medicare beneficiary can choose and enroll into a new plan for 2019.

Nov. 2, 2018 – March 4, 2019

This is for seniors who lost their Cost Plan coverage and switched to Original Medicare for 2019.

This is the timeframe to buy Medicare Supplement coverage.

Dec. 8, 2018- Feb. 28, 2019

For seniors who lost their Cost Plan coverage, this is a chance to pick a different Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan that they chose during the Annual Enrollment Period.

Jan. 1, 2019

Seniors whose Cost Plan coverage ended on

Dec. 31, 2018, and didn’t enroll in a new plan will return to Original Medicare (Parts A & B only),

with coverage gaps and cost burdens.

Jan. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2019 (Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period that’s new for 2019)

Any senior with a Medicare Advantage plan can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan; drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare; can sign up for a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan if returning to Original Medicare; or drop their stand-alone Part D plan.

*Source: Minnesota Commerce Department

Senior Living – October 2018