Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange opened its doors Tuesday, giving consumers a new way to shop for coverage and to access tax credits to bring down the cost.
Here are some important things to note about the exchange, known as MNsure:
• MNsure is an online marketplace, not an insurance plan. The state has created a website at mnsure.org where consumers and small-business owners can comparison shop among a variety of offerings from insurance providers.
• You don’t have to have a computer to shop. Many libraries, community centers and health clinics will be able to enroll Minnesotans in coverage. Consumers may also shop with insurance brokers or contact the health insurance companies directly.
• MNsure’s call center is open an extra two hours in the evening this first week, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The toll free number is 1-855-366-7873. Call center operators can answer questions in many languages, but they cannot enroll consumers through the MNsure website.
• Limited enrollment hours. For now, consumers can only buy insurance from 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The general website is available 24 hours for information.
• Take your time. Tuesday was the start of a six-month open enrollment for coverage that begins Jan. 1.
• Penalties don’t kick in until after March 31, 2014. The individual mandate that is part of the federal health law requires most everyone to buy insurance or pay a fee. This year the penalty is $95 or 1 percent of household income.