Column: Consider MNsure benefits, despite criticism

MNsure is taking a beating. Republicans are licking their chops over making the roll out of MNsure a way to vote out Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Don Heinzman
Don Heinzman

James Noble, the state’s legislative auditor, can’t wait to dig into the numbers to see if funds are being used correctly.

It’s time to remember that MNsure is only a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), which has been the law of the land since March 2010.

To put this in perspective, 84 percent of U.S. citizens already have health insurance and are complying with the law.

So what is the Affordable Care Act, and why are we so concerned about it?

It is aimed to provide health insurance for 30 million uninsured citizens. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation estimates 462,000 Minnesotans are uninsured.

MNsure’s health exchange is criticized because of computer problems with the rollout. Despite this, it’s estimated that 71,982 Minnesotans are in the process of enrolling in qualified health plans, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance.

Since Minnesota has decided to expand Medicaid, it’s estimated that 67 percent of uninsured nonelderly people are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or the market places.

Meanwhile, the law already has many benefits.

You can keep your youngsters on your health insurance until they are 26 years old. Your health insurance company no longer can reject you or your children because you have a pre-existing condition. Your health insurance company no longer can cap your benefits.

Seniors should know that under this law, the donut hole is shrinking. Before the Affordable Care Act, seniors paid 25 percent of the Medicare costs, with Medicare paying 75 percent up to $2,800. Then, seniors had to pay 100 percent of health care expenses up to $6,400 and 5 percent after that, with Medicare paying 95 percent.

Under the new law, seniors got a $250 rebate in 2010 and a 50 percent drug company discount in 2011 and 2013. By 2020, seniors will pay 25 percent of their Medicare costs.

Under this law, more people are eligible for health care paid by Medicaid. Medicaid is made up of 57 percent federal and state funds to help poor people pay their medical bills and live healthier lives. Much of it goes to care for the elderly.

Through Jan. 4, a total of 28,401 additional Minnesotans who meet the less restrictive guidelines, at 133 percent of the poverty level, had signed up for Medicaid.

Now, what about that health exchange?

Under the law, people have to be enrolled by March 31 or face a penalty of $95 for an individual or 1 percent of total income, whichever is greater. And that’s only for the first year; the penalty fee will increase in subsequent years.

People can sign up for private insurance, Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. So far 38 percent have signed up for private insurance.

If you qualify, the federal government will help pay your costs of buying health insurance through tax credits.

With all of the benefits already under the law, why is there so much criticism?

Not surprisingly, the nature of the media and the Republican Party is to concentrate on the flaws.

Those who are benefiting aren’t talking because their health insurance needs are being met.
Stay tuned.

Editor’s note: Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers and a member of the ECM Editorial Board.