Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


When you see the circle in blue, it's time to renew.

That's important advice for the 1.5 million Minnesotans who get their health care coverage through the state's Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs. After a three-year hiatus during the COVID-19 public health emergency, annual eligibility checks are resuming to ensure that those served by these taxpayer-funded programs meet income limits and other criteria for this aid.

Enrollees must fill out and return paperwork promptly to keep their coverage. These forms will come by regular mail, a process that kicked off this spring. The "blue" refers to the sapphire spot on the envelope, encasing the words "Important information enclosed," intended to make this crucial correspondence stand out amid other mail.

That's a smart innovation by the state Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. But the massive number of people who must successfully navigate the renewal process over the next year still makes this a daunting challenge. Hard work is critical from many Minnesotans to prevent coverage gaps from paperwork mishaps.

Minnesotans who rely on these programs, or those who have loved ones who do, must stay vigilant at the mailbox. This remains a paper-driven process. Look for the due date on the cover letter accompanying the renewal form.

Minnesota's world-class medical community has helped spotlight the renewal process's complexities at the Legislature and elsewhere. Their involvement is commendable but ongoing effort is critical to ensure continued coverage.

Dr. Nathan Chomilo, a pediatrician serving as the state's Medicaid medical director, has waged an energetic campaign to raise awareness through public appearances and his Twitter account. He's also giving a heads-up to his patients, with end-of-visit advice about the importance of renewing. But he's just one person.

The state's medical providers should consider following Chomilo's lead by offering patients similar guidance. Greater involvement by the state's well-known health care organizations — such as the Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Council of Health Plans — would be beneficial. Are there other innovative approaches these organizations could take to further leverage their resources and influence?

The Twin Cities is also home to prominent advertising agencies. Could one of them develop a public service campaign to assist?

Minnesota is not alone in grappling with this health care challenge. At the pandemic's beginning, Congress bolstered funding for states willing to keep people continuously enrolled in low-income medical assistance programs. That was prudent because it ensured access to doctors and hospital care if enrollees contracted COVID. That had the broader benefit of helping contain the virus.

That policy wasn't meant to be permanent, and it made sense to begin redetermining eligibility this year. Other states are tackling renewal as well.

One in four Minnesotans rely on medical assistance programs. Other renewal information that's good to know:

  • The paperwork won't go out to all medical assistance enrollees at once. Instead, it's linked to the month when you signed up. If that was in June of a previous year, check next month. If it was July, watch for its arrival then.
  • MinnesotaCare enrollees will have a different timeline. They can expect their eligibility renewal beginning in October 2023.
  • DHS has an accessible online guide answering common questions at tinyurl.com/MNRenewalGuide.
  • The agency also urges enrollees to make sure their address is up to date so forms arrive without delay. To update contact information, go to tinyurl.com/MNUpdateAddress.

DHS will also text enrollees when renewal information is in the mail and follow up with reminders about submission deadlines. Paying attention and returning forms promptly will be vital in keeping a million-plus Minnesotans healthy. That's time well spent.