Archived Story

Good or bad — Major health care changes are here

Published 9:56am Friday, October 11, 2013 Updated 12:05pm Friday, October 11, 2013

MNsure — Minnesota’s branch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — was officially open for public enrollment on October 1, 2013 and will close March 31, 2014.

MNsure is an online website for Minnesotans to search government-organized health insurance plans and coverage that was created under the federal health care reform effort (ACA) which required each state to set up a health insurance exchange or else the federal government would set up an exchange for them.

The ACA requires everyone to have health care coverage effective Jan. 1, 2014 (with certain exceptions). The penalty for not doing so is the greater of $95 or 1% of household income for the first year. Shopping through MNsure is one way individuals and small employers purchase health care coverage. Minnesotans can also buy directly from private insurance carriers or work with an insurance agent or broker if they prefer. If you already have health care coverage through a large employer, you likely will not have to do anything different. People covered by Medicare will continue to have the same coverage as they have had in the past.

Individuals and families not currently covered by insurance offered through their employers and small businesses with 50 employees or less can use MNsure. MNsure is also the application portal for Minnesota’s public health care programs like Medical Assistance and MNCare.

Depending on your location in Minnesota there will be at least two and up to five different insurance companies with plan options available. The plans will be categorized in “Metal Levels” which indicates different levels of coverage. A Bronze level plan will cover roughly 60% of the costs of services it offers. Silver will cover roughly 70%, Gold will cover 80%, and Platinum will cover roughly 90% of the costs of the benefits provided.

With the recent launch of MNsure there have been a handful of technology problems. There were widespread delays and errors, specifically with creating accounts, verifying identity and comparing plan options. One notable delay is the “search by provider” function. The website asks users if it’s important for them to keep their current doctor or clinic. When a user clicks “yes,” a message appears saying the function isn’t available. This may be a big problem for people who are anxious to find out if they can keep their doctor if they buy a plan through MNsure.

Many concerns have been raised by constituents and government officials regarding the health care exchange. A notable concern was when MNsure staff mishandled and released private data which included social security numbers of 2,400 individuals. Many are worried that they are not sufficient enough to protect privacy. MNsure even asked the American Indian community to hold off from applying for one week because of significant problems the system was experiencing.

To learn more you can contact MNsure’s Call Center at 1-855-3-MNSURE (1-855-366-7873) or visit their website atwww.MNsure.org.

If you have any positive or negative experiences with this new program or ObamaCare in general, please let us know. I can be reached by telephone at (651) 296-3826 or (855) 407-7386, by e-mail at sen.torrey.westrom@senate.mn, or via mail at 107 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

It is an honor to serve you here in St. Paul.

Minnesota Senator Torrey Westrom serves District 12.

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