The state of Minnesota is contacting nearly 9,000 recipients of MinnesotaCare health insurance to clarify a letter that incorrectly stated they would lose their subsidized coverage for at least four months if they didn't re-enroll by July 31.

Minnesota used to make new or tardy MinnesotaCare enrollees wait four months for benefits, but that waiting period went away this year as part of federal health changes and the introduction of the MNsure online health insurance marketplace.

The affected recipients will lose their benefits for August if they don't renew by July 31, but they could get them back by September if they enroll sometime in August.

"We sincerely apologize for this error and for causing any confusion among MinnesotaCare clients about their eligibility for coverage," said Chuck Johnson, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, in a news release on Monday.

A group of 14,000 MinnesotaCare recipients were told to use the new MNsure online system by July 31 to renew their benefits as part of the state's transition away from its old enrollment system. The letter with inaccurate information was sent to 8,765 of those individuals who, as of mid-July, had made no attempts to register on the MNsure site.

The letter also stated inaccurately that payment for the first month of benefits must be made by July 31. Enrollees need only to sign up for their existing benefits on MNsure by the deadline. Payment takes place after renewal of benefits on the system.

MinnesotaCare was created in 1992 to help the working poor — those who struggled with the high cost of private insurance but earned too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Funded by a tax on doctors and hospitals, as well as sliding-scale premiums for recipients, the program was credited with keeping Minnesota's uninsured rate lower than the national average over the last two decades.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, requires almost all Americans to have health insurance, starting this year, and resulted in the state's creation of MNsure. The online exchange offers private plans to individuals and small businesses, and determines whether individuals qualify for tax subsidies to reduce their premiums. Despite this expansion, state health officials opted to retain MinnesotaCare as it offered more affordable options to certain low-income adults and families.