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Letter: MNsure — a step forward for rural Minnesotans

A few weeks ago I drove to St. Paul to listen in on a MNsure oversight hearing. MNsure staff and board members reported on the real impact of the new program. Legislators from both sides of the aisle asked tough questions about the bumpy roll-out. The bottom line was undeniable: While MNsure has room to improve, it is already making a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.

To date, over 250,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in insurance through MNsure. In this first year of the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of Minnesotans who are uninsured dropped by 40 percent. That’s good news for rural hospitals that often struggle with the costs of providing emergency care for uninsured people.

Many people that had insurance before MNsure were able to get better, cheaper coverage this year. A dairy farmer friend didn’t qualify for financial aid on MNsure, but was still able to get a cheaper policy than he has been able to find on the private market. He now has insurance for the first time in years. A number of beginning farmers I know got much better insurance, at a lower cost, on MNsure.

As a lifelong family farmer, that’s important to me. Farmers cannot be making decisions about whether to farm or how to farm based on a need for health care coverage.

The next MNsure enrollment period opens in November. MNsure plans to publish premium rates in October, giving Minnesotans plenty of time to learn about their options. Health insurance is far too big a line item on family farmers’ and small business owners’ budgets. Now MNsure is shrinking that insurance cost for many rural families. I hope even more people take a look at MNsure this fall.

There’s work to do to make MNsure better. There is work to do to move beyond MNsure to a health care system that is simple, efficient and works for all Minnesotans, no exceptions. Even so, right now, MNsure is a real step in the right direction for thousands of farm and rural Minnesotans.

Paul Sobocinski Land Stewardship Project Wabasso