Those who buy health insurance through MNsure and get help paying for it thanks to the Affordable Care Act should shop for coverage like normal this fall despite another looming legal threat to the landmark health law.
The same advice goes for those who may be turning to MNsure and the ACA’s financial assistance for the first time after losing employer coverage due to a job loss as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.
The Minnesota online insurance marketplace serves people who purchase coverage on their own and also can determine if they are eligible for aid that acts as an instant, ongoing discount to monthly premiums. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a third effort to strike down the law in early November, but a ruling isn’t expected until well into 2021. Even if the court rules against the law, experts predict it would take time to complete the complex task of unraveling the law, a process likely to be slowed by the involvement of the lower courts. Congress could step in with fixes, as well.
“People should absolutely sign up at open enrollment,’’ said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “For now, the ACA is the law. The health insurance is real. The subsidies are real and available.”
The traditional window to select coverage for the coming year begins in just a few weeks — Nov. 1. It runs through Dec. 22 here, giving Minnesotans more time to buy a private coverage for 2021 than consumers in other states who rely on the Healthcare.gov marketplace. On Friday, the state Commerce Department delivered additional welcome news about 2021 coverage. On average, consumers can expect small rate increases — from 0.67% to 4.21%.
Still, affordability remains a challenge for many. The ACA’s financial assistance is only available to Minnesotans if they buy on MNsure. It can deliver substantial price relief to those who are eligible. In Minnesota, this aid is available to those whose incomes exceed the caps for the state-run medical programs but fall below the 400% federal poverty threshold. A single person who makes more than $25,520 a year up to $51,040 falls within this range. A family of four with yearly income from $52,401 up to $104,800 falls within the income guidelines for ACA subsidies to buy private coverage.
Of households served by MNsure, 54% qualify for monthly premium assistance. The average amount of aid provided monthly: $431.
There are a number of Minnesotans who do not need to wait until Nov. 1 to find coverage for 2021 or sooner, if necessary. Those who have lost or will lose coverage provided through their jobs may be eligible year-round for a 60-day special enrollment period to sign up for coverage and qualify for ACA aid. This is vital information, especially with layoffs just announced at several major American companies as the pandemic continues.
In addition, MNsure has added a special enrollment period for those whose employers have stopped subsidizing a COBRA plan, the shorthand term for continued group coverage following a job loss or reductions in hours worked. Eligibility for state-run medical assistance or MinnesotaCare programs serving low-income households can also be determined year-round, with MNsure a good place to start this process.
Pollitz, of the Kaiser foundation, said those weathering the pandemic’s economic downturn may feel like they’re in a game of musical chairs when it comes to coverage. The ACA, she said, ensures that there are options when a chair is eliminated, such as with job loss. “People really should continue to count on that law being there for them until hear otherwise,” Pollitz said.