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“There are workers around here who still remember Healthmatch,” said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County, which includes Rochester. “They remember that this was tried before and aborted because it was just too difficult.”
County workers, who are on the front lines of enrolling Minnesotans into public health care programs, quickly realized that their fears were justified.
Many people who applied for Medical Assistance through MNsure found that their cases disappeared into the system’s now-infamous “black hole” and were irretrievably lost. The system was also prone to crashing unexpectedly, making it difficult for people to determine if they had insurance. Vitzthum of Anoka County estimates that MNsure was inoperable “one-third of the time” in December, before improvements took hold.
“There are a lot of people who are stuck, and there’s nothing we can do to unstick them,” Welsch said. “It’s frustrating.”
Among those stuck is Mary Hierlinger, 57, of Anoka, who applied for Medical Assistance through MNsure in late December and is still waiting to find out if her application has been approved.
With a recent diabetes diagnosis, Hierlinger needs an answer soon. She has enough insulin to last the rest of this month but has no insurance and no way of paying for the medication after January. Hierlinger was laid off in October from her job as an inspector at an ammunition factory in Anoka.
“I’m in limbo,” Hierlinger said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do after January, but I refuse to live on the street.”
As of late Tuesday, Comopsia Stanley had grown increasingly desperate — and angry. The Fridley resident had just learned that her MNsure application was held up because she had to prove she was receiving unemployment insurance.
Her son was down to his last dose of insulin. Without insulin, he runs the risk of going into a diabetic coma, Stanley said.
“I’m in panic mode,” Stanley said, as she drove with her husband to the Anoka County Social Services office in Blaine. “At least give me coverage so I can get my baby some insulin. It’s life or death now.”
Chris Serres • 612-673-4308