Tricounty News

State control of health exchange plan a plus

Change is always difficult, especially when dealing with a complex issue like the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, as it is more commonly called. But change, it-is-a-coming, and I give Democrat legislators credit for building their own state-based health insurance exchange.

The alternative is a federally developed program that cannot be adjusted to meet the needs and characteristics of Minnesota citizens. So instead of sitting on their hands and complaining about what is to come, House and Senate Democrats voted to approve an exchange that sets up a one-stop marketplace where individuals, families and small businesses can compare prices and benefits among multiple private health insurance plans.

Those expected to benefit the most from the exchange, dubbed MNsure, are:

• Middle class families who will qualify for tax credits to purchase quality health insurance at affordable rates.

• Small business owners who can access more affordable coverage for themselves and their employees.

• Early retirees who will be able to purchase quality health coverage until they are eligible to enroll in Medicare.

• Low income Minnesotans who can enroll in Medical Assistance by using MNsure.

By 2016, the health insurance exchange is expected to provide access to quality, affordable health coverage to 1.3 million Minnesotans, saving the state’s families and businesses an estimated
$1 billion in health-care costs.

It is important to remember that MNsure is still a framework with more details to be added and changes made before and even after it becomes operational in October of this year. That is one of the benefits of the state setting up its own program. The exchange will not be perfect, but neither will the federal exchange be perfect. The difference is that MNsure will be flexible and reflective of Minnesota’s families, economy and top-rated healthcare system.

People can begin reviewing their insurance options when open enrollment begins on
Oct. 1, 2013. At that time they will be able to search for and compare health plans based on cost, quality and consumer satisfaction by accessing the MNsure website or by using a toll-free hotline for in-person assistance. Actual coverage purchased through MNsure will begin on Jan. 1, 2014.

For now, the State of Minnesota has developed a public information website, www.mn.gov/hix. It is tailored for consumers and small employers, so check it out to learn more about MNsure and how the health insurance exchange will impact you and your family or business.

Nancy Larson
Meeker County DFL Chair