PUBLISHERS NOTEBOOK: Minnesotans still
unsure about MNsure
Thursday, September 12, 2013 9:29 AM
Most people are at least vaguely familiar with MNsure, Minnesota's new health insurance marketplace that is a result of the Affordable Care Act, or what is commonly referred to as Obamacare. The online site will begin selling health insurance policies by private insurance companies to individuals beginning Oct. 1 with policies becoming effective Jan. 1.
A controversy over the use of Paul Bunyan in marketing and an announcement Friday that Minnesota's rates may provide the lowest in the country, with estimates as low as $91 a month, have raised some awareness, but the public appears to be unaware of the intricacies of the new program.
That feeling was confirmed by a new University of Minnesota study that shows more than 60 percent of enrollees in Minnesota's high-risk insurance pool define themselves as "somewhat" or "very unfamiliar" with health reform and the pending changes to their current coverage stemming from the implementation of the new program. Although MNsure likely won't affect people with coverage through their employers, a large number of the people in this group are the ones that could benefit from the new option.
The study also found that 80 percent of the people enrolled in the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association high-risk pool were satisfied or very satisfied with their current coverage, but a sizeable number still reported unmet health needs due to cost.
The study suggests that high-risk pool enrollees should be made aware of the new coverage, which includes no exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, no copays or deductibles for preventative services, such as annual exams, no lifetime limits on medical claims, and federal subsidies in the form of tax credits for those who qualify.
Clearing up the confusion surrounding the health exchange won't just lead to improvements in health care coverage. It could prevent financial difficulties.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota recently reported that it is concerned about fraudsters who are already using the confusion about the new law to their advantage.
Although the BBB is taking a neutral approach on the advantages of the new law, it is offering information to fend off scammers.
The law includes a provision that residents must purchase health insurance by March 31 or face penalties, but that doesn't mean someone will call you asking for money to pay a fine or send you a bill, which is already happening by those trying to get money out of confused individuals. The penalty, which is $95 or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is greater, will be assessed on your 2014 income tax form due April 15, 2015. There is no jail time and the government can't garnish your wages.
Scammers have also been calling individuals telling them they have to provide personal or financial information to receive health coverage or keep the insurance policy they have. The BBB tells consumers not to be bullied by these underhanded people.
Other helpful tips:
There is no card given out, such as for Social Security or Medicare.
Medicare cards won't be affected. Scammers may try telling seniors they need to apply for a new card, which isn't true.
Health plans will no longer be able to exclude individuals from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Don't respond to cold calls or provide sensitive personal or financial information over the phone.
If you see Paul Bunyan in some unusual positions on billboards or advertisements, you are on the right track. If you want to get the details on Minnesota's new health exchange, check out the website www.mn.gov/hix.
There are still a lot of questions about how all this will work and how much our state's residents will really benefit, but we need to become more informed of what is one of the biggest changes to our system. The knowledge could improve your health and protect your pocketbook..