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Continued: MNsure health insurance exchange gets off to a halting start

Plans are rated from the least-expensive “bronze” offerings to premium “platinum” plans.

Jeff Fowler, who owns a Minneapolis brokerage agency, urged consumers to take a close look and weigh the options. In general, low premiums come with higher out-of-pocket costs and fewer options for hospitals or doctors.

“On some of lower priced plans, they’re almost exclusively with a certain care organization,” he said. “If premium is the boss, you can get the rates pretty low and with subsidies even lower.”

Waiting to enroll

Marla Hovde is so eager to get insurance through MNsure that she attended a UCare informational session on it last week.

Hovde has been unemployed and uninsured for two years. An insurer denied her coverage because of a chronic illness, so instead she has been burning through her savings and paying $160 out of pocket for doctor visits every two months to check her blood levels and receive refills of a blood thinner and a cholesterol medication.

But she opted to stay off the site Tuesday after hearing about potential start-up problems.

“I figured it’s the first day,” said Hovde, 56, of Woodbury. “If there are any kinks, let them get those worked out.”

While Tuesday’s launch was a milestone, MNsure officials offered reminders that it was merely the start of a six-month open enrollment period to buy coverage starting Jan. 1.

For those who want coverage to become effective on Jan. 1, they will need to purchase by Dec. 15, insurance companies say.

University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs has spent the past year hosting monthly forums on health reform efforts with national and local leaders. He compared Tuesday’s nationwide rollout of exchanges to other significant social programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which underwent decades of funding, government foot-dragging and congressional changes.

“In the big picture, these problem we’re seeing are more overload problems rather than about programs not working,” Jacobs said. “If we’ve still got these problems in a month or two, or the federal hub isn’t working, I’d be concerned.”

 

The New York Times contributed to this report.

Jackie. crosby@startribune.com 612-673-7335

Jeremy. olson @startribune.com 612-673-7744

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