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Potential Issues As 1.3M Minnesotans Get Health Care Coverage

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The push is on to get 1.3 million Minnesotans to sign up for insurance under the new health care law.

The program is called MNsure, goes into effect Jan. 1, and anyone can buy health insurance through the program, though there will be significant federal subsidies for low-income patients.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison said the program will provide more affordable health insurance for at least 300,000 who currently don’t have coverage.

But critics say the program is too complicated and may not draw as many people as expected.

North Point Health Clinic serves 23,000 patients, and 40 percent of them just like Kanya Kongsiharath don’t have health insurance.

“It’s way too expensive,” said the full time home health care aide.

To see how much insurance would cost her under the new system, Kongsiharath can go to MNsure’s website where there are calculators for small businesses and individuals.

The calculator said a family of four earning $40,000 would get a significant subsidy and pay $164 dollars a month for health coverage. Still the clinics medical director expects only 5 percent of their uninsured patients will sign up.

“It’s not real simple,” Dr. Paul Erickson said. “You have to apply, you have to pay a certain amount, you have to choose different programs.”

Ellison said that is why he is organizing Tuesday night’s information session.

“We want them to know what it is, how they get involved, what they get, how much they charge,” Ellison said.

MNsure’s cost calculator right now provides just estimates — that will change in October.

“There is an open enrollment period that begins in October — coverage stars Jan. 1,” MNsure’s Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov said.

MnSure said its current cost calculators are giving accurate premium estimates for lower income patients. But middle and higher income Minnesotans who go on the MNsure website will get estimates that are high.

It’s not just MNsure insurance beginning in January 2014. Anyone without health insurance will start paying a tax penalty which will be as much as 1 percent of their income.

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