What health care reform means for Minnesotans

  • Article by: JULIE BRUNNER
  • Updated: September 1, 2013 - 12:04 PM
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Illustration: M. Ryder Tribune Media Services

Minnesota icon Paul Bunyan has announced that colossal changes are coming to Minnesota health care. Federal health care reform is here. Although Americans remain divided about the law, there’s no debate that its effects are coming.

How will the changes impact you and your family? That depends. The truth is that upcoming changes will be as unique as your fingerprints and will depend on your current health insurance.

Federal reform will change the insurance situation for about 24 percent of Minnesotans in four categories: Those who are currently uninsured; those who buy coverage on their own; those who are covered by Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA) or MinnesotaCare, or those who work for companies with 50 or fewer employees.

But it’s equally important to remember that 76 percent of Minnesotans won’t experience major differences in benefits or premiums due to federal reform. The most common change for these Minnesotans will be the additional cost of 1 to 3 percent in federal taxes added to premiums paid by large companies.

If you are in the four categories subject to changes, here’s the basic information you should know:

• About 54 percent of Minnesotans who do not have insurance now qualify for low-cost or free coverage through MinnesotaCare or Medicaid. Another 35 percent of people without insurance will be eligible for help paying for coverage. This financial help will be paid for in part by a new federal premium tax.

• Many people will be buying more benefits than before, including coverage for mental health, substance abuse, maternity care, and dental care and eyeglasses for children. More benefits mean higher premiums.

• About 120,000 people will have lower deductibles than in the past, increasing their premiums.

• If you or your employer paid more for coverage because of a preexisting condition, that added charge goes away.

• If you or your employer received a discount because you’re healthier than average, that discount is gone.

• MCHA enrollees will have a year to transition into the private market, where their preexisting conditions will no longer exclude them from coverage.

• MinnesotaCare rules will change, moving about 10,000 current enrollees into the private market, with help paying their premiums and medical care costs.

• Individuals will have many coverage options during open enrollment. No one will be denied coverage, even if they are already ill or injured. These costs will be shared among everyone who is insured, increasing premiums.

• Premiums paid by smaller companies and individuals could see up to 5 percent in added taxes, including two federal taxes and one state tax to fund MNsure, the state’s new online marketplace for health insurance.

• • •

Wondering where you fall? The website myhealthcarefuture.org can help you figure it out. The site asks a few questions and helps Minnesotans personalize changes coming through federal reform. Or, you call the number on the back of your insurance card for answers about how your current coverage will be affected.

Meanwhile, in just 30 days, the state will launch the MNsure website, an online marketplace giving Minnesotans another place to buy health insurance. The new marketing campaign featuring Paul Bunyan has introduced Minnesotans to the website.

A key component of federal health care reform, MNsure is designed to make it easier for people to comparison-shop across health plans.

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