By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Open enrollment starts Friday for MNsure, the state’s health insurance marketplace, and closes earlier than previous years, on Dec. 23.

MNSure CEO Nate Clark urges people looking to enroll or shop around to start the process early.

Every year, MNSure sees a spike in questions regarding the enrollment process, tax credits, and finding the right plan. People who work at MNSure can help with any confusion about the process itself, and officials advise anyone with questions to call.

When it comes to tax credits, three-quarters of uninsured Minnesotans are eligible for some aid, and the threshold is well above the poverty line.

People who make less than $50,000 a year qualify for financial help. For families of four, the combined maximum salary is $103,000. MNSure is the only place to get the tax credit, and this year the average value was $462 a month.

Picking a plan can also be confusing, but MNSure has a guide on its website that compares plans side-by-side.

“You can make adjustments based on the sort of deductible that you want to have,” Clark said. “You can also make certain that the medications you were taking are included in the formulary. And those are tools you can use that would help you make a more informed decision when it’s time to enroll.”

The concept is part of a bigger trend towards transparency, and applies to medications as well.

A survey from the National Center for Health Statistics found nearly half of Americans take some kind of prescription drug. Yet, according to United Healthcare, only about 10% of people know how much their prescription will cost at the doctor’s office.

“As you get to later stages in life, the average number of prescription drugs that someone has is two-three,” said UnitedHealthcare Minnesota CEO Brett Edelson. “So I think as a health insurance company, we need to continue to ensure that the discussion remains between the provider and the patient to figure out which one makes the most sense.”

The company’s resource is called PreCheck MyScript. It starts with a doctor. He or she prescribes medication, and before leaving the office you and the doctor will help make a decision based on copay, deductible, where it’s available, and any other factors that matter.

Those features are also available online. Other providers have similar tools as well.

HealthPartners, for example, shows all of the options when searching by drug. It shows the cost based on a specific plan, and even breaks that price down by dose.

Christiane Cordero