A few weeks ago, a woman walked into one of MNsure’s 20 enrollment centers distraught that her family’s health insurance premium was going up by several hundred dollars per month. To hear Chuck Moline explain it, when the woman found out that new subsidies to help buy health insurance would provide her with year-over-year savings of more than 60 percent, at first she was in a state of disbelief — saying “this can’t be possible. Good things like this haven’t ever happened to our family before.”
Chuck is the owner of AdvisorNet Financial in Austin, Minn., and is in his second year of operating one of MNsure’s broker enrollment centers. “I can cite example after example of people who have really benefited financially from going through MNsure,” Chuck told me. In fact, more than 70 percent of people who have applied for health insurance through MNsure have qualified for financial help this year.
I am honored to serve as the CEO of MNsure. It’s an organization that has already provided hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans with affordable, comprehensive health insurance. Whether you’re a single mother working two jobs, a self-employed consultant or someone looking to retire early, Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare and tax credits make insurance dramatically more affordable for people in every single corner of our state. Giving people time to focus on things like family while not having to worry about paying medical bills is a huge step forward for Minnesotans.
It hasn’t come easily. As I’ve traveled the state the last three months, many have heard me say that our path hasn’t been perfect. Our harshest critics are convinced that because of our early history we should scrap MNsure and instead seek to have our health programs serviced by the federal government. As I’ve been taught my whole life, never hide from who you are. And we haven’t. Following our rough start, MNsure renewed its commitment to accountability and transparency. We openly discuss our enrollment projections and budget process. At our monthly board meetings, we present a candid assessment of the MNsure information technology system. A year and a half ago, this assessment had dramatically more red (bad) than green (good). But in the last year, that trend has all but reversed.
So when I say that “things are improving” and that “we are making major upgrades,” here’s what I mean:
Minnesota is relatively unique, because our 87 counties administer our Medical Assistance program, and they rely heavily on the Minnesota Eligibility Technology System (METS) to get this work done. In fact, integration of Minnesota’s public programs (Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare) was supposed to streamline this process, not complicate it. In the past year, we’ve added tools for counties to make changes electronically to enrollment records and have completely incorporated county leadership into the committee that makes decisions about MNsure’s technology progress and priorities.
Transferring electronic enrollment records to health plans is a process that seems extremely easy but is in reality extremely complicated, and not just for Minnesota. This is a process the federal exchange and other states have also struggled with since day one. Thankfully, Minnesotans and health insurance companies have been patient as we’ve tried to simplify, accelerate and successfully send enrollment information. In early November, we began sending daily electronic files to health insurance companies. This helps people who shop on MNsure get their insurance cards much more quickly.
And that’s just the start. In September, we made major improvements to METS — including security enhancements, performance improvements and user-interface changes, as well as creating a new way for navigators and insurance brokers to help Minnesotans. There are other major items to be added that continue to focus on functionality to deliver more-efficient services for Minnesotans. This level of work continues regularly through 2016.
It is my expectation that our path continues to be more “green” and less “red.” Will we meet unexpected obstacles? Yes. Will we hold ourselves accountable to Minnesotans for having a process where they can obtain affordable, comprehensive health insurance? Absolutely.
Personally, I am dedicated to making sure the single mothers, the Minnesotans facing unemployment and the families trying to make ends meet at least have the peace of mind of having health insurance. After speaking with Chuck in Austin, I know firsthand that Minnesotans are counting on MNsure. Our first application deadline is Dec. 28 for insurance coverage starting the first of the year. Don’t miss the chance to make sure you are getting the best deal for yourself and your family.
Allison O’Toole is CEO of MNsure.