Walz, Peterson to Introduce Legislation Today to Protect Medicare for Minnesota Seniors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Tim Walz (MN-01) and Collin Peterson (MN-07) announced they are introducing the Protect Medicare for Seniors Act of 2018 to delay the transition of Medicare Cost plan beneficiaries to Medicare Advantage plans from 2019 to 2021. Their decision to write the bill follows the failure of the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide a timely response to questions they raised in a December 2017 letter about the potential disruption and interruption of health coverage over 300,000 Minnesota seniors face come late 2018 when the transition is slated to begin.
“Every Minnesota senior must have access to a trusted, high-quality Medicare option that meets their needs,” said Reps. Walz and Peterson. “As Republicans in Washington continue to target Medicare for cuts, the Trump administration has failed to respond in a timely manner to critical health coverage concerns facing Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries this fall if the Cost plan phase-out continues as planned. As a result of CMS’ failure to properly prepare our seniors for the transition, it is imperative that the Medicare Advantage transition be delayed. Today, we are introducing the Protect Medicare for Seniors Act to delay the transition so that our seniors have the answers, direction, peace of mind, and health coverage and care they deserve.”
The following are quotes from various Minnesotans in support of the Walz, Peterson proposal:
“I made the change from a Medicare Advantage Plan with another company to the BCBSMN Cost Plan a few years ago, but I understand the Cost Plan is going away,” said Steve Hogberg, a Medicare beneficiary from St. Peter, MN (Nicollet County) that will be impacted if the Cost plan phase-out isn’t delayed. “I am concerned that my wife and I will not have time to fully understand the options subsequently available and the implications of this forced change. We have benefited from good advice through our insurance agent and expect she will be able to help us through this again, but since we do not know what any new plan might include, we are concerned about the loss of network and plan flexibility that our Medicare Cost plan currently provides. I have become aware that Minnesota may have the largest number of members who are affected by this change compared to other states and consequently the federal government may not care about us Minnesotans in relation to the many other citizens in this country who will not be affected, but it certainly means something to us. The question is why is it going away now? If it has been available and a good option before, why take it away right now?”
“Due to the brief Medicare Open Enrollment window, I’m concerned that current Medicare Cost members won’t have sufficient time to research and understand the options available to replace their Cost plan,” said Carolyn Mager, Insurance Agent from St. Peter with over 635 Medicare Cost contracts. “And, for many people who prefer face-to-face assistance with their insurance, they may find it difficult to find opportunities to meet with those they wish to see. Even more so, I am concerned about the potential loss of network and plan flexibility that Medicare Cost plans currently provide. I cringe to think I may have to tell a client that only one of their three doctors are now in-network with their new plan.”
“Our agency and most of our clients are fortunate that they currently reside in either Le Sueur or Rice Counties as they will not be affected as of now because roughly 21 of the 87 Minnesota counties do not have enough other plan options at this time, thus allowing an annual review by Medicare to be exempt from the sun setting on the Medicare Cost Plans,” said Darian Hunt of House of Insurance Agency Inc. and 2017 Minnesota Independent Insurance Agents Association President. “However, those clients who will be affected still will only have one or two months to try and make an informed decision on their new Medicare Supplement. You could have a Medicare Recipient who lives in Le Center, MN and one who lives in St. Peter MN and those clients will have totally different options and decisions to make about the Network of Doctors or their Cost Sharing participation. Our Seniors deserve to have more than one or two months to make an informed decision on their Supplements.”
Currently, over half of all Medicare Cost plan beneficiaries live in Minnesota. As it stands, it is estimated that over 300,000 Medicare recipients in 70 of Minnesota’s 87 counties currently have Medicare cost plans. Seniors are expected to begin receiving notices of the transition in September if the transition is not delayed.
The requests made of CMS by Walz, Peterson and colleagues in their December 2017 letter include:
- A detailing of the steps CMS has taken to provide maximum flexibility and thorough information to Minnesotans on Medicare options
- A detailing of the additional steps CMS will be taking in advance of the transition to ensure a timely and effective notice of these changes, and to limit confusion
- A detailing from CMS of the regulatory options available to limit disruption for Cost plan beneficiaries and provide the greatest level of choices for Minnesota seniors
For additional background and a copy of the full inquiry Rep. Walz, Rep. Peterson and a coalition of Minnesota congressmembers sent to CMS on the Medicare Cost phase-out, please click here.