Questions still surround MNsure as first deadline arrives
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans have just one day left to buy health insurance on MNsure if they want it to take effect Jan. 1. But the Thursday midnight deadline comes as major questions remain unresolved about MNsure's future -- and about how much some...
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans have just one day left to buy health insurance on MNsure if they want it to take effect Jan. 1.
But the Thursday midnight deadline comes as major questions remain unresolved about MNsure’s future - and about how much some MNsure customers will have to pay for their insurance.
MNsure is the state-run marketplace for people buying individual health insurance. More than 44,000 people have signed up for plans on MNsure since open enrollment started, double the rate seen last year.
Premiums for plans on MNsure have risen significantly this year as insurers try to stanch losses stemming from an insured population that’s older and sicker than expected.
Many MNsure customers are insulated from these price increases - if not from narrower networks and higher deductibles - because of federal subsidies that rise with premiums. These subsidies are available for people earning up to $47,520 for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four. More than 60 percent of enrollees so far qualify for subsidies, an average tax credit of $600 per month.
But people earning above that cutoff aren’t eligible for subsidies. Many of them make too much money to get subsidies but not enough to afford tens of thousands of dollars a year in premiums - the so-called “premium cliff.”
Minnesota leaders in both political parties want the state to spend taxpayer money to help these Minnesotans, but have yet to agree on a deal to do that. Lawmakers also have a Thursday deadline to agree on measures for a possible special legislative session. If they can’t come together by then, around 100,000 Minnesotans will start their new insurance plans Jan. 1 without knowing if they’ll get state assistance for their expensive premiums.
The open enrollment period continues through Jan. 31, but plans purchased after Thursday won’t take effect in January.
Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election means big changes are likely for health insurance in the United States - but they’re unlikely to affect people buying health insurance this year.
Instead, the implementation date of any major new health care laws are likely to be well in the future, giving citizens and companies alike the opportunity to plan for the change.
One option being discussed by Republicans in Congress has been dubbed “repeal and delay” - an immediate vote to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act that wouldn’t take effect until 2018 or later. Under this plan, Republicans would take that time to draft and pass an alternative, instead of passing an alternative right away.
Minnesota, too, could see bigger health care changes in the future. The new Republican-controlled Legislature will consider handing MNsure over to the federal government to run, as well as various measures to try to stabilize the individual insurance market.
Those would likely affect 2018 insurance policies at the earliest.
MNsure staff expect high demand Thursday as people try to purchase insurance by the midnight deadline. The MNsure call line, 1-855-366-7873, will remain open until midnight, and anyone on hold then will still be able to purchase insurance.
But MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole urged Minnesotans not to wait until the last minute.
“My best advice to (people) who procrastinate is to call sooner rather than later,” O’Toole said. “You’ll have a better experience if you’re not rushed.”
Past MNsure deadlines have seen wait times rise as tens of thousands of people call in for help purchasing insurance. The last day before last year’s deadline for January coverage saw an average wait time of more than half an hour at MNsure’s call center.
The primary method for purchasing insurance is MNsure’s website, mnsure.org . People can also enroll through an insurance broker, or through a “navigator” that provides free help. Lists of both are available on MNsure’s website.