Column: Minnesotans can look forward to greater health care coverage opportunitiesIt was a big legislative session for health care reform. Now Minnesotans are left wondering what it means for them.
By: Kim Nichols Dauner and Jennifer Schultz, For the Budgeteer News
It was a big legislative session for health care reform. Now Minnesotans are left wondering what it means for them.
Although many questions still remain as to the mechanics, many Minnesotans can look forward to greater opportunities for health care coverage. Unfortunately, so much of the health care reform conversation has been clouded with political back-and-forth. What we need to remember is that this is law and how we choose to implement it will shape our state’s health for years to come.
Minnesota has taken several giant steps forward in ensuring access to health care for many. Lawmakers at the state capitol expanded Medical Assistance (MA) up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline, as well as pushed MinnesotaCare up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline. What this means is more working poor families will be eligible for affordable health care coverage.
The state also decided to implement its own health insurance exchange called MNsure. MNsure is a new, one-stop health insurance marketplace where Minnesotans can find and compare health plans, and choose the coverage that fits their needs. A projected 1.3 million Minnesotans will enroll in health insurance through MNsure. Of the projected 1.3 million newly covered individuals, approximately 840,000 will be enrolled in MA and MNCare (The Impact of the ACA and Exchange on Minnesota: Updated Estimates, Prepared for State of Minnesota February 2013; Dr. Jonathan Gruber). For those above 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, MNsure will be a place to compare qualified health plans and check for subsidy eligibility.
MNsure recently received submissions from health plans as to the products they will make available through this new marketplace. MNsure will be up and running October 1 at which point Minnesotans will get their first glimpse at the options for qualified health plans. Until then we can look at other states for an idea of what’s to come. Last week, Covered California, the health insurance marketplace that California is establishing under the Affordable Care Act, released their health plans with lower-than-expected premium rates for 2014.
In addition to the MNsure website, our state is currently working to implement a comprehensive Community Assistor Network. Community Assistors will be designated individuals, trained through MNsure, available to help individuals enrolling in health care coverage through MNsure. The goal of the Community Assistor Network is to ensure in-person and trusted assistance for individuals with questions or needing hands-on help navigating and enrolling in coverage. Throughout the state, communities are gearing up for the start of MNsure by discussing what is possible with the Community Assistor Network. In Duluth several forums and community conversations have taken place to discuss how we can best reach underserved and uninsured populations through this network. Community organizations, health care centers, and insurance brokers will all have a role in providing accurate information and assistance.
With so many uncertainties and questions looming, it can be a challenge to see the start of MNSure as an opportunity. Yet, we are at a critical time in our state’s history in regards to health care. As a community, and a state, we can ensure thousands more individuals receive access to health care.
Uncertainty? Yes. Opportunity? Absolutely.
Kim Nichols Dauner and Jennifer Schultz are professors of health care management at the Labovitz School of Business & Economics at University of Minnesota Duluth. Contact them at kdauner@ d.umn.edu and email@example.com respectively.