By Ana Alexander
MCLEOD COUNTY, MN MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole visited KGLB radio in Glencoe Oct. 6 to discuss health insurance options for Minnesotans.
MNsure is a “marketplace” for Minnesotans to shop around for health insurance.
“It is the platform through which Minnesotans can qualify for tax credits, but also do an apples-to-apples comparison across insurance carriers and plans,” O’Toole said. “It’s really the only place to do it.”
O’Toole compared MNsure to travel agency sites, like Kayak or Travelocity, which help users find the best deal for your purchase.
“MNsure is the single front door for all of Minnesota’s health care programs,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole was joined by Waconia-based health insurance consultant Tim Jopp, who is partnering with MNsure to help Minnesotans understand their options when it comes to health insurance.
“I love this state, and I love trying to figure this out. Tim and I are partners in this, and are trying to make this work for average Minnesotans,” O’Toole said.
One aspect of MNsure’s assistance that sets it apart is the tax credits Minnesotans can take advantage of.
“The access to those tax credits is so important,” O’Toole said. “We are the only place where Minnesotans can qualify for tax credits those tax credits help reduce those monthly premiums. It is a direct tax break, that price comes down through those tax credits.”
According to O’Toole, MNsure is a solution for those concerned about increases in health insurance.
“The average Minnesotan who’s getting tax credits is saving $200 a month. That is really money for families,” O’Toole said. “We know of 100,000 Minnesotans, right now, today, who would qualify for tax credits and aren’t taking advantage of them and we don’t want Minnesotans to leave money on the table like that. We want them to get the advantage, especially in this environment, when rates are increasing so much.”
Looking into tax credits could be even more vital this year, as insurance rates increase.
“It’s a big decision for people, and this year, it’s going to affect their pocketbook in a way that it hasn’t before,” O’Toole said. “Getting that help from trusted community partners, like Tim and his team over at Legacy Benefits, is really critical.”
Customers encouraged to act now
O’Toole encourages Minnesotans to shop around, and get help and the sooner, the better.
“We’re also encouraging, this year, that consumers get in early, because health insurance carriers have put some limits on what new customers they’re going to take this year,” O’Toole said.
If an employer offers group insurance, there is a formula that is used to determine if the plan is affordable. According to Jopp, these group plans are almost always deemed affordable, in which case, the employee will not be able to purchase an individual plan.
“Generally, if you have employer-sponsored insurance, that’s your best option,” O’Toole said.
Open enrollment begins Nov. 1, and ends Jan. 31.
“There’s a three-month period where consumers can enroll into coverage or renew their existing coverage,” O’Toole said.
For those who are looking for insurance by Jan. 1, the deadline is Dec. 15.
Minnesota currently has the lowest uninsured rate in state history, at 4 percent, according to O’Toole.
“Going forward, it’s my job to make sure we’re serving Minnesotans in the best way we can,” O’Toole said.
While most states use HealthCare.gov, Minnesota is one of 13 states that does not.
“We’re one of a small handful of states that actually kept control ourselves,” O’Toole said. “In Minnesota, because we like to lead the way, always on health care, we chose to keep the reins and keep local control over this.”
MNsure provides help through its website, as well as over the phone.
“If you call MNsure, we will find someone in your area and direct you to that agent or navigator,” O’Toole said. “It’s also on our website, right on the front page, you can type in your zip code and find someone right in your backyard.”
MNsure’s ability to direct Minnesotans to local agents for help is one of its biggest benefits, according to O’Toole.
“We have this network all over the state, in every community expert help available to people to help them navigate this,” O’Toole said.