MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — MNSure opens enrollment October first with plenty of questions, including the most obvious: What’s it all about?

Talking with patients outside Hennepin County Medical Center in down town Minneapolis, only 3 in 10 knew about open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1. Furthermore, no one asked or knew of its connection with MNSure, the state insurance gateway to the ACA.

“I’m not sure. It would have to be a guess,” said one patient.

“I need more information,” says a mother escorting her young daughter home from a checkup, “I’ve never heard about it before.”

One man quipped, “I could make a guess.”

This is significant since Hennepin County Medical Center takes care of the lion share of the county’s indigent, homeless, poverty level and low income residents.

“Anyone, can go to MNSure and use an application to shop for insurance and certain folks will qualify for financial help,” says John Reich with MNSure, who has been spending the run up to open enrollment, trying to get the word out especially to low income residents.

“If you are eligible for a tax credit what essentially will happen is you will understand what that credit is for you and then that will be applied to a premium. In some instances there will be no premium, the credit will pay for the entire cost, in some instances folks will have to pay the balance,” Reich said.

Back at Hennepin County Medical Center, patients are very interested in signing up, but had some questions.

“As far as pre-existing care, I’m diabetic and have high blood pressure, will I be covered? Will we ever be shut off of it?,” John, a patient waiting for the bus, said.

“After Jan. 1,” Reich said, “everyone is guaranteed issuance of a health policy. Nobody can be denied any more for a pre-existing condition.”

So, even if you are on a plan right now, and MNSure can find you a cheaper one, you can make the switch knowing you’ll have guaranteed coverage.

It’s easy to see why those with families or pre-existing condition want affordable insurance, but what if one is in a low risk health care group, like that age of young person between high school or college and a family? Why should you be forced to buy insurance? Well, it will be the law for starters.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, every legal resident of the United States, not to mention Minnesota, must have a health insurance policy.

“I guess the thing I am wondering is, I am a young guy, healthy and I haven’t been to the doctors in years, why should I be forced to buy insurance,” asked a U of M student?

Reich says the answer could come in an instant!

“Everyone is just one accident away from needing health insurance. A broken arm could cost as much as $2,500 in the emergency room. It only makes sense to get some insurance on the front end so if you do have an accident or an injury at the ER, you’re covered,” Reich said.

That one accident can easily exceed even the penalties you pay for not having insurance, if you’re thinking of just trying to slip by that way.

“I have not even heard too much about the fines, I heard they were not going to start right away so they don’t concern me,” the student said.

Not so says Reich, although far less in cost than an actual policy, the penalties begin right away.

“The first year penalties start at 95 dollars and one percent of your income, whichever is greater. In 2015 it will be 325 dollars or two percent of your income, whichever is greater, and in 2016 it will 695 dollars or two and a half percent of income, whichever greater,” Reich said.

He says paying a fine may be a headache you may want to avoid.

“While some folks think they’re modest at the outset, the penalties do get higher as you go up,” Reich said.

A recent Kaiser survey appears to dispel the notion that those young members of the “invincible” generation don’t want health coverage, he said the figures point to a growing number of young people do want health insurance, they just cannot afford it. With MNSure and the ACA, Reich says they can.


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