Minnesota’s Senior LinkAge Line ready to assist Minnesotans with big Medicare changes during open enrollment

With the start of Medicare open enrollment on Oct. 15, the Minnesota Board on Aging’s Senior LInkAge Line is prepared to help Minnesotans navigate significant changes to Medicare plans.

Due to a change in federal law, Cost Plans, a type of Medicare plan popular in Minnesota, will no longer be available in 66 counties for 2019. This means that about 375,000 affected Minnesotans on Medicare will need to change plans.

Senior LinkAge Line, at 1-800-333-2433 and via chat at SeniorLinkAgeLine.com, is available to help Minnesotans on Medicare weigh their plan options by providing them with comprehensive, unbiased Medicare counseling. Senior LinkAge Line has temporarily extended its business hours and will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays.

“It’s important for consumers to review their health plans to make sure the plan is both affordable and provides access to doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies they want and need,” said Kari Benson, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging.

Minnesota has the most beneficiaries on Cost Plans of any state in the nation, with about 400,000 of the 756,000 people on Cost Plans nationwide. A small number of Minnesotans with Cost Plans will be able to keep their plans because they reside in counties that do not have enough other options. However, the majority of beneficiaries in Minnesota will have to change plans or risk returning to Original Medicare, which could be costly to individuals.

Also new this year is a Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period in 2019 during which someone with a Medicare Advantage plan can:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare; or
  • Add or drop a standalone Part D prescription drug plan.

Upcoming key dates for Medicare-related events:

  • Oct. 15-Dec. 7, 2018 – Medicare Open Enrollment. Any Medicare beneficiary can choose a new plan during this time.
  • Nov. 2, 2018-March 5, 2019 - Beneficiaries who lost their Cost Plan and switched to Original Medicare for 2019 can buy Medicare Supplement coverage.
  • Dec. 8, 2018-Feb. 28, 2019 - Beneficiaries who lost their Cost Plan can choose a different Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan than what they selected during open enrollment.
  • Jan. 1, 2019 - Medicare beneficiaries whose Cost Plan ended Dec. 31, 2018, and who did not enroll in a new plan will return to Original Medicare (Parts A & B only).
  • Jan. 1-March 31, 2019 – Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period (new for 2019) allows someone with a Medicare Advantage plan to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare or add or drop a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

More information about plans is available on the Medicare Plan Finder. More information about Medicare open enrollment in Minnesota can be found at SeniorLinkAgeLine.com.

Senior LinkAge Line, at 1-800-333-2433 is a free statewide service of the Minnesota Board on Aging in partnership with Minnesota’s Area Agencies on Aging. Senior LinkAge Line provides help to older Minnesotans, all Medicare beneficiaries, and their families and friends by helping them connect to local services, find answers and get the help they need.

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John Westmoreland, the former assistant director, started his role Nov. 1.

He replaces Council 5’s founding director Eliot Seide, who is retiring.

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Westmoreland says he plans to meet with leaders of every local and build “a coalition of the willing.”