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Viewpoint: Here’s what MNSure means to you

By JoAnn Ward

With October upon us, now is an exciting time for Minnesota as we begin enrollment in the new MNSure health insurance exchange. MNSure is an insurance marketplace where Minnesotans can compare and purchase private health insurance at an affordable cost.

You may have seen the Paul Bunyan and Babe billboards touting MNSure, but how exactly will this affect your family? Families and individuals that are currently covered under a group or state plan do not need to use MNSure. However, if you are uninsured, underinsured or covered under an expensive private plan, MNSure is a place for you to purchase an affordable, high quality policy and to potentially qualify for a federal rate reduction subsidy.

For most middle class Minnesotans, MNSure will mean paying less because of the federal subsidy that is based on your ability to pay. On average there will be an estimated net savings of $500 per person. MNSure’s rates were recently released and Minnesota’s are the lowest in the nation compared to states offering similar products. This is great news and indicates that Minnesota’s exchange is poised to be competitive and successful.

MNSure is being implemented under the federal Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”). States were given the option to either use the one-size-fits-all federal model, or to create our own exchanges. In Minnesota, we created our own exchange with the help of industry leaders and health care experts. In addition to the exchange, the Affordable Care Act allows children to stay on their parent’s policy until age 26, no longer allows insurers to deny clients based on preexisting conditions and caps out-of-pocket spending at $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families.

Perhaps the most widely disputed aspect of the Affordable Care Act is that individuals will be required to have health insurance on Jan. 1, 2014. This requirement is meant to reduce the high costs of uncompensated care, increase preventive care and expand primary care to produce long term cost savings for everyone.

If you are uninsured, MNSure is a great tool for finding and purchasing a policy. Recognizing that those without insurance may not be able to afford a traditional policy, MNSure offers a subsidy up to 100 percent of premium costs. To see if you qualify for the subsidy, visit this link: Enrollment in MNSure begins Oct. 1, and coverage begins Jan. 1, 2014. If you’re planning to use MNSure, you can enroll anytime in October, November or December to be insured on Jan. 1.

The health plans offered include existing networks of providers, meaning most enrollees will be able to keep their doctor or clinic. Health plans participating in MNSure include Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Health Partners; Medica; PreferredOne and UCare (for the first time in the private market). The small employer market will include Blue Cross; Medica; and PreferredOne.

Only time will tell how well MnSure will do at bending the cost curve, but so far indications are positive. The law has many components that will take time to impact the system and truly reduce costs. While there has been negativity cloaking this issue since its inception, the insurance industry, health care industry, and Minnesotans stand to benefit from reduced costs and increased coverage due to MNSure.

Ward, a Woodbury Democrat, represents House District 53A in the Minnesota House