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Katie Sieben Viewpoint: What you need to know about MNsure

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Katie Sieben Viewpoint: What you need to know about MNsure
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

MNsure, Minnesota’s new online marketplace for health insurance, went live on Oct. 1 and represents a significant step toward implementing the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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While many other states — including our neighbor across the St. Croix River — opted to have a federal exchange imposed upon them, the Minnesota Legislature took swift action last session to ratify our own, state-based health insurance exchange. As a result, Minnesotans shopping for health insurance through MNsure are finding more options for better coverage at the lowest average rates in the country.

Under the ACA, individuals and families who do not already have health insurance through an employer will have until March 31, 2014, to purchase health coverage through MNsure. The same open enrollment period applies to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. To be clear, if you already receive health coverage through your job or are otherwise happy with your current coverage, you don’t need to take any action.

But for the more than 300,000 Minnesotans living without health insurance and the rest of the estimated 1 million Minnesotans expected to access coverage through MNsure, these plans will be more affordable than ever for better, more comprehensive coverage.

In addition to services traditionally covered by health insurance plans, all plans sold through MNsure have to cover maternity care, prescription drugs, emergency room care, mental health treatment, pediatric care and other mandated health benefits. Consumers will be able to choose from various “metal levels” of coverage, which roughly correspond to percentage of costs covered: a bronze plan will cover around 60 percent of costs, a silver plan will cover around 70 percent, gold around 80 percent and platinum around 90 percent. In our community — which includes parts of Dakota and Washington counties — we will have access to the maximum number of private insurance companies to choose from under MNsure, each offering a multitude of insurance plans.

Whether you’re looking for coverage for an individual, a family or a small business, your first stop should be www.mnsure.org. This website provides detailed information about MNsure at any time, with eligibility and enrollment functions available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. You can easily browse plans and make apples-to-apples comparisons based on your requirements for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and levels of coverage. Since health insurance decisions are complex and very often require more personalized help than a website can provide, one-on-one assistance from MNsure experts is also available over the phone at 1-855-3-MNSURE (1-855-366-7873).

If you’re looking to learn more about MNsure, I encourage you to join me, Woodbury Sen. Susan Kent and St. Paul Park Rep. Dan Schoen at a MNsure information session we’re hosting at  7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the East Ridge High School cafeteria in Woodbury. We will hear from representatives from MNsure who will be on hand to answer questions and help connect area residents with the resources they need.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me regarding this or any issue. I look forward to hearing from you as we prepare for the 2014 legislative Session.

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, is the assistant Senate majority leader and chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Elections.

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