Medicare is divided into four Parts. Medicare Part A covers hospital (inpatient, formally admitted only), skilled nursing (only after being formally admitted to a hospital for three days and not for custodial care), and hospice services. Part B covers outpatient services including some providers' services while inpatient at a hospital, outpatient hospital charges, most provider office visits even if the office is "in a hospital," and most professionally administered prescription drugs. Part D covers mostly self-administered prescription drugs. Part C is an alternative called Managed Medicare by the Trustees that allows patients to choose health plans with at least the same service coverage as Parts A and B (and most often more), often the benefits of Part D, and always an annual OOP spend limit which A and B lack. The beneficiary must enroll in Parts A and B first before signing up for Part C.[2]
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 MedPAC Congressional advisory group found in one year the comparative difference for "like beneficiaries" was as high as 14% and have tended to average about 2% higher.[47] The word "like" in the previous sentence is key. MedPAC does not include all beneficiaries in its comparisons and MedPAC will not define what it means by "like" but it apparently includes people who are only on Part A, which severely skews its percentage comparisons—see January 2017 MedPAC meeting presentations. 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.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote in 2008 that "future growth in spending per beneficiary for Medicare and Medicaid—the federal government's major health care programs—will be the most important determinant of long-term trends in federal spending. Changing those programs in ways that reduce the growth of costs—which will be difficult, in part because of the complexity of health policy choices—is ultimately the nation's central long-term challenge in setting federal fiscal policy."[84]
Medicare beneficiaries in Michigan who are enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and B) may find that these plans do not cover all of their health expenses. However, Medicare beneficiaries in Michigan may opt to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, also known as Medigap, which may cover expenses such as copayments, deductibles, coinsurance, and possibly other out-of-pocket expenses. Most states offer ten standard Medigap policy options.
A Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare. You will get your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage from the Medicare Advantage plan and no Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans must cover all of the services that Original Medicare covers except hospice care. Original Medicare covers hospice care even if you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans aren’t supplemental coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). In most cases, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan only at certain times during the year.
Medicare Part D went into effect on January 1, 2006. Anyone with Part A or B is eligible for Part D, which covers mostly self-administered drugs. It was made possible by the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. To receive this benefit, a person with Medicare must enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or public Part C healh plan with integrated prescription drug coverage (MA-PD). These plans are approved and regulated by the Medicare program, but are actually designed and administered by various sponsors including charities, integrated health delivery systems, unions and health insurance companies; almost all these sponsors in turn use pharmacy benefit managers in the same way as they are used by sponsors of health insurance for those not on Medicare. Unlike Original Medicare (Part A and B), Part D coverage is not standardized (though it is highly regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Plans choose which drugs they wish to cover (but must cover at least two drugs in 148 different categories and cover all or "substantially all" drugs in the following protected classes of drugs: anti-cancer; anti-psychotic; anti-convulsant, anti-depressants, immuno-suppressant, and HIV and AIDS drugs). The plans can also specify with CMS approval at what level (or tier) they wish to cover it, and are encouraged to use step therapy. Some drugs are excluded from coverage altogether and Part D plans that cover excluded drugs are not allowed to pass those costs on to Medicare, and plans are required to repay CMS if they are found to have billed Medicare in these cases.[48]
^ Frakt, Austin (December 13, 2011). "Premium support proposal and critique: Objection 1, risk selection". The Incidental Economist. Retrieved October 20, 2013. [...] The concern is that these public health plans will find ways to attract relatively healthier and cheaper-to-cover beneficiaries (the "good" risks), leaving the sicker and more costly ones (the "bad" risks) in fee for service Medicare. Attracting good risks is known as "favorable selection" and attracting "bad" ones is "adverse selection." [...]
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One unique feature of a Medicare Supplement insurance plan in California is known as the “birthday rule.” According to this rule, beneficiaries in the state are allowed to buy a new Medicare Supplement insurance plan for 30 days following their birthday each year. The new plan must have equal or lesser coverage than their original plan. During this “birthday” period, Medicare beneficiaries are not subject to medical underwriting like they would be during other times of the year.
You might find it helpful to compare Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota to Medicare Supplement plans. With Medicare supplement plans, you’ll always have a monthly premium. These days, many Medicare Part C plans in Minnesota also charge a premium, but you can find fairly modest ones. You also will have to enroll in other prescription drug plans with a Medigap plan. Unless you have a Guaranteed Enrollment Period, you may also have to answer health questions to get accepted for Medigap plans.
These Medigap insurance policies are standardized by CMS, but are sold and administered by private companies. Some Medigap policies sold before 2006 may include coverage for prescription drugs. Medigap policies sold after the introduction of Medicare Part D on January 1, 2006 are prohibited from covering drugs. Medicare regulations prohibit a Medicare beneficiary from being sold both a public Part C Medicare health plan and a private Medigap Policy. As with public Part C health plans, private Medigap policies are only available to beneficiaries who are already signed up for Original Medicare Part A and Part B. These policies are regulated by state insurance departments rather than the federal government although CMS outlines what the various Medigap plans must cover at a minimum. Therefore, the types and prices of Medigap policies vary widely from state to state and the degree of underwriting, discounts for new members, open enrollment and guaranteed issue also varies widely from state to state.
In states with lots of rural areas, like Minnesota, Medicare Cost plans tend to be more popular because they offer more flexibility than an HMO. If a plan member gets services inside of the network of Medicare Cost Plans, they work the same way that an HMO works. If the plan member decides to visit a non-network medical provider, Medicare Cost Plans will cover those services the same way that Original Medicare Part A and Part B do. Typically, a Medicare Advantage HMO won’t cover non-emergency services outside of the network at all.
In 2003 Congress passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law on December 8, 2003. Part of this legislation included filling gaps in prescription-drug coverage left by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act that was enacted in 1980. The 2003 bill strengthened the Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Program (WCMSA) that is monitored and administered by CMS.
Just to make life truly confusing, the various options offered by Medigap are also sorted by letter. The choices are Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N. What these plans include is standardized by Medicare. The cost for them can vary, however, so it's worth shopping around. Joseph Graves, insurance agent and founder of “I Hate Buying Insurance,” says many people enroll in Plan F, the most expensive choice, because it covers nearly all the gaps. A person with Plan F coverage will have few or no out-of-pocket expenses, however, by the end of 2019, plan F will no longer be available to new Medicare enrollees.

Many look to the Veterans Health Administration as a model of lower cost prescription drug coverage. Since the VHA provides healthcare directly, it maintains its own formulary and negotiates prices with manufacturers. Studies show that the VHA pays dramatically less for drugs than the PDP plans Medicare Part D subsidizes.[132][133] One analysis found that adopting a formulary similar to the VHA's would save Medicare $14 billion a year (over 10 years the savings would be around $140 billion).[134]


All insurance companies that sell Medigap policies are required to make Plan A available, and if they offer any other policies, they must also make either Plan C or Plan F available as well, though Plan F is scheduled to sunset in the year 2020. Anyone who currently has a Plan F may keep it. Many of the insurance companies that offer Medigap insurance policies also sponsor Part C health plans but most Part C health plans are sponsored by integrated health delivery systems and their spin-offs, charities, and unions as opposed to insurance companies. The leading sponsor of both public Part C heatlh plans and private Medigap plans is AARP.
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