Seven things to know about Medicare changes this fall

Do you need to select a new Medicare plan for 2019?

Minnesotans will be hearing a lot about Medicare this fall ― and not just because it’s an election year. 

Almost 400,000 Minnesotans now have what’s known as a Medicare Cost plan for their health coverage. Cost plans are a type of Medicare plan you purchase through an insurance company. The plan provides additional benefits that the federal government’s Original Medicare doesn’t cover.  

Changes in federal law limit the counties where Medicare Cost plans may be available in 2019. That means many Minnesotans will need to shop for and pick a new Medicare plan this fall.  

Choosing the right Medicare plan is an important task: It ultimately affects which providers, clinics, and hospitals you can go to. Here are some of the most important things to know if you have Medicare or are helping a senior with their Medicare plan. 

1. Why am I hearing about Medicare plans changing next year?

Not all Medicare plans are changing. But due to changes in federal law, Medicare Cost plans will no longer be offered in 66 Minnesota counties next year. Cost plans will still be available in 21 counties. 

2. How do I know if I have a Medicare Cost plan?

Three insurers in Minnesota sell them. Go here, then click on the “Cost Plans” tab to read the list. You can also call the number on your current member insurance ID card to find out if your plan is affected. 

3. Will I have to select a new Medicare plan?

It’s smart to review your options each year to make sure you have the coverage level that makes most sense for you. Your needs can evolve from year to year, and plan options can change too.

4. When do I need to decide?

Information about 2019 plans became available on Oct. 1. The Medicare annual enrollment period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Set aside some time to explore your plan options and sign up for one during this period. 

5. What factors should I consider when choosing a new plan?

One important factor is which doctors and clinics are in your plan’s provider network. Many people want to stay with the doctors or clinics they already know and trust. By choosing a plan that includes your usual doctors as in-network providers, you can avoid paying higher costs associated with out-of-network care. 

You also might want to consider how much coverage you want. Different types of Medicare plans, like Medicare Advantage plans, can cover more comprehensive hospital and medical services and may include things like prescription drug coverage, dental, or vision, as well as cover more preventive care than other types of Medicare plans. Some people like these plans because it means you don’t have to shop for supplemental coverage for these services. 

6. How can I be certain I can keep seeing my Fairview or HealthEast provider?

Our health system will be part of many Medicare plans next year. We’ll have a list of plans in which we participate at www.fairview.org/medicare.

Our health system is also excited to be a part of two new Medicare Advantage plans, offered by UCare and by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. These new plans are set up using an accountable care model: an extra level of coordination between the insurance companies and our health system. This model is designed to ensure quality coverage, great value, and an exceptional experience. 

These new plans are available to residents of eight counties in 2019: Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, and Washington. 

No matter where you live, you’ll have plan options to choose from that include our system. (Some Medicare plans may only be offered in certain geographic areas. Visit medicare.gov to find all Medicare plans that are available to you based on your zip code.)   

7. How can I get help understanding Medicare or choosing a plan?

Most insurance providers offer free community information sessions to learn about Medicare plans and have schedules posted on their websites. 

Visit www.fairview.org/medicare to learn about Medicare plans that include Fairview and HealthEast.

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