MNsure on pace to meet enrollment goal
More than 120,000 Minnesota residents have signed up for health insurance coverage
Tom Klein
T. Klein
Scenic Rivers Health Services has helped Iron Range residents enroll for health insurance coverage.

REGIONAL – MNsure recently announced more than 120,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace.

With an original goal of enrolling 150,000 Minnesotans, MNsure is on pace to meet or exceed that goal when open enrollment ends on March 31.

“We’re averaging about 1,000 new enrollees every day,” said interim CEO Scott Leitz. “We anticipate we will continue or improve this pace, keeping us on track to meet our original goal of enrolling 135,000.”

To date, MNsure has enrolled 33,722 in a qualified health plan, 23,950 in MinnesotaCare and 62,982 in Medical Assistance.

Meredith Erickson, who is assisting people enrolling in the program at Scenic Rivers Health Services in Cook, Tower and Floodwood, said she has helped enroll more than 100 people. She’s also assisted several hundred others over the phone who needed guidance navigating the website where they could enroll.

“It’s a mixed group,” she said. “We have some people who are already insured but were able to find a better plan. They’re paying a lot less than they were before and getting better coverage. And there are others who are coming in and obtaining health insurance for the very first time.”

The latter group is typically younger people, according to Erickson. But she said she also helped enroll an older couple who never had insurance and are just now getting coverage.

Tom Burnett said he and his wife sought assistance from Erickson in obtaining insurance through MNsure. His children were covered under MinnesotaCare, he said, but he didn’t have health insurance for himself.

“I couldn’t afford it,” he explained.

In his case, he said, he and his family will receive free insurance. But he has mixed feelings about the program because his brother will have to pay more for insurance based on his income.

“It doesn’t seem fair that I should get it for free and he has to pay more,” said Burnett.

Erickson noted that a number of the people she helped qualified for free or reduced-cost health care through tax subsidies. Unlike the previous Minnesota Care guidelines, which also took into account a person’s assets, the MNsure program is based on strictly income.

While the MNsure program faced a number of struggles in the months immediately following its Oct. 1 debut, the independent board that oversees the program took a number of steps, including replacing the original CEO, to help get the program operating more effectively. Major changes were made to the program’s website and additional people were brought in to staff the program’s help line.

“Things have definitely improved,” said Aaron Undeland, of Range Reliable Insurance in Virginia. Undeland is one of hundreds of insurance agents across the state who had signed up as “assisters” for families and individuals who needed help signing up. Undeland estimates he’s worked with about 100 individuals or families to get coverage through the program, and many saw significant benefits as a result.

“There’s no doubt that when the website works and it’s the right situation, they can walk away with a good plan and a substantial savings,” Undeland said.

Meanwhile, the state has posted a list of locations where Minnesotans can go to get face-to-face assistance with enrollment on the MNsure website at www.mnsure.org.

Monday, March 31, is the final deadline to make a plan selection and payment for coverage starting May, 1, 2014. This is also the last day of enrollment and the last day to enroll in health insurance inside or outside of MNsure before the next open enrollment period begins on Nov. 15, 2014, without facing a tax penalty.

Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers must enroll in health insurance coverage by April 1 or face a penalty. Once the March 31 enrollment deadline has passed, individuals will not be able to enroll in health insurance plans until the next open enrollment period. However, exceptions are allowed for people who have qualifying life events, or who qualify for Medical Assistance or Min- nesotaCare.

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