Minnesotans know that MNsure wasn’t perfect when it was enacted last October. There was a media bombardment attacking its website issues, long wait time, data breaches, limitations on plans, fraud, administrative scandals, etc. Today, however, the program has smoothed over the rough patches.
At the Family Service Center of Clay County in Moorhead, there are nine trained assisters through a group called Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership. There is also one navigator, Lynn Isaacson, and she is the only employee taking full-time appointments. She’s basically the office MNsure pro. In October, she met with 106 individuals regarding MNsure and that’s been the average number of people she has seen every month since the program’s inception.
“Sometimes, at the end of the day, I can’t even remember who I saw at 8 o’clock,” Isaacson said.
Isaacson and her supervisor, Rebecca Johnson, have been very pleased with the program’s improvements over the past few months and anticipate more positive changes to come. The state program has gone from 30 call assisters on staff to 300, so MNsure is growing stronger while creating jobs. Administrators also gathered consumer and staff feedback over the summer to benefit this year’s open enrollment process.
There are three types of plans available through the assistance of MNsure. The first two are public assistance kind of programs, Medical Assistance (MA) or Medicaid – this is generally for people with lower incomes or fall under the federal poverty line (around $12,000 a year). The next one is Minnesotacare for people with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or upwards of $23,000 a year. Those two forms of assistance are available year-round. The special enrollment period refers to the third tier of assistance for families or individuals seeking a Quality Health Plan (or QHP) and is the plan that gets politicized the most.
QHP enrollment is from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, and plans can begin from Jan. 1 to March 1. Last year the open enrollment deadline was pushed back to April due to confusion and procrastination. Isaacson feels confident that enrollment dates won’t be extended like they were last year. The MNsure staff through Lakes and Prairies have been making efforts to remind the community of the upcoming deadlines.
“Lakes and Prairies is granted to do community outreach to remind people about open enrollment dates … There are also grantees throughout the state of Minnesota that do it locally in their communities,” Johnson noted. If someone qualified for open enrollment last year, then they will receive a notice in the mail letting them know it’s time to renew their plans or leave them as is.
Comparing the negatives and positives of the program and the overall work, Isaacson and Johnson both agreed that the positives outweigh the negatives. They are overwhelmed everyday by the positive impact medical assistance has on families and individuals in need.
“I remember a middle-aged couple with kids, leaving with tears in their eyes because they had significant health problems and prior to getting insurance here they were paying a lot for a very high deductible plan because they had a preexisting condition …
“They were bracing themselves for a very high payment because they heard that MNsure had really expensive plans and they thought it was going to be terrible and they ended up saving $700 a month plus had a much lower deductible … It was just incredible. It was literally a life-saving thing for them.”
As far as homeless people in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Isaacson said, “The shelters are booked and they’re sometimes turning people away. The bright side is that those people who are trying to get their lives back together, there are a lot of pieces involved in that, but being able to go to the doctor is important.”
After helping many Somali families, refugees from Iraq, Kurdish families and others new to the area, Isaacson has developed a desire to learn different languages. Though, interpreters are available through the Cultural Diversity Center in Fargo. MNsure also has a language line so that a navigator can connect families to a translator.
- Apply at www.mnsure.org from 6 a.m. to midnight anyday.
- There are no income qualifications to apply for MNsure.
- Be sure to remember your username and password.
- Read the tips for completion and other useful resources on the website.
- Use recommended browsers and clear browser history once in a while.
- Don’t attempt to complete on a tablet or a smartphone.
- Save as you go so that you don’t lose information.
- Call a navigator if you have a question.
- Set up an appointment with a navigator if you have a lot of questions.
- Call MNsure (1-855-366-7873) or Clay County Social Services (218-299-5200) to check on status or for questions.
- Don’t get too frustrated.
- Don’t procrastinate.
- Keep calm and MNsure on!
by Brittney Goodman
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