At Open Cities Health Center (OCHC), navigators Pa, Christen and Glafira have one goal in mind: to improve the health of their community.
“We are the first point of contact with MNsure for most patients and many of our colleagues and supervisors, peers and friends,” said Glafira. “We stay up to date with all the news – from complications with the website to changes in the individual mandate – to ease our clients’ concerns and accurately discern rumors from reality. We assist with the MNsure application and provide follow up services in order to ensure that our clients get the health coverage they deserve.”
All three say working one-on-one with individuals and families to apply for health insurance is a rewarding experience. Minnesota has expanded both Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare and has some of the lowest QHP premiums in the country.
“Clients and navigators alike experience instant gratification because we find out immediately which programs clients qualify for,” said Glafira. “Seeing these same clients at OCHC weeks later for their first physical in 5 years, or a much needed mammogram, is thanks enough.”
All of the Navigators at Open Cities are between the ages of 22 and 28, and can relate to the trade-offs young people face in purchasing health insurance.
“Health insurance may not be a priority when you are paying off student loans or just making rent each month, but you will be surprised at some of the plans available to you at no or little cost. There is nothing to lose by applying, and a lifetime of health to gain.”
Vavalee is currently uninsured and does not speak English. Obtaining health insurance coverage has been challenging for her in the past due to that language barrier. Vavalee recently attended a MNsure enrollment event hosted by Hmong American Partnership, a MNsure grantee.
By working with a Navigator that spoke her language, Vavalee was able to complete the MNsure application and qualified for Medical Assistance.
“It gives me a peace of mind knowing that I have health care insurance and when I’m sick, I’ll not be afraid to go to the hospital. Without this coverage, it would cost me a lot,” Vavalee said.
More than 2,000 certified MNsure assisters are across Minnesota ready to help people enroll in qualify, affordable health insurance coverage. Many of these assisters work with specific populations, allowing them to meet the needs of all Minnesotans.
For years, Sinda has struggled to find affordable health insurance coverage due to a minor abnormality that showed up in one blood test but then did not show up in subsequent tests.
Although the test result was transitory, it led to Sinda being flagged for having a “pre-existing condition.” This made it difficult for her to find reasonable health insurance coverage even though she was young and healthy.
The only coverage Sinda was able to find was in a high-risk pool. It carried a monthly premium of $450 and a sky-high deductible. The policy was not sustainable and did not provide the coverage Sinda was looking for.
Through MNsure’s online marketplace, Sinda was able to find a plan with a $175 monthly premium and a deductible of just $1,000. The cost savings on her premium alone is $3,300 a year.
“I was blown away by the options on the MNsure website,” Sinda said. “They’re much better than what you could typically buy for yourself, and they’re a lot better than what I was getting from my employer.”
Through MNsure, young people like Sinda can find comprehensive coverage at an affordable price.
As a self-employed piano teacher, Mitch doesn’t have employer-provided health insurance and hadn’t thought much about coverage until it was time to purchase a policy.
When Mitch was 24 and still on his parents’ health insurance, he was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. At the time, he didn’t know what implications this would have for his eligibility for affordable health insurance later on. When he turned 26 and it came time to find his own health insurance, disappointment came when he received rejection letters citing pre-existing conditions. Mitch eventually enrolled in MCHA, paying a much higher premium than his peers and also receiving less valuable coverage.
Mitch checked out MNsure as soon as it opened, and was initially a little overwhelmed by all the options, but did end up finding a policy.
“I was thrilled to find that not only can I have a lower premium, but I also can cut my deductible in half and have five office visits with copays,” said Mitch. “This is the kind of value I wanted two years ago when the insurance companies rejected me. It feels great to find a policy I like and actually be allowed to enroll in it.”
As a young professional on a budget, Miranda often researches products before purchasing and shops around to get the best value for her money. Little did she know she would be able to do that with her health insurance.
“I really didn’t think I was going to get better coverage at a lower premium, but there were several options out there,” said Miranda.
Miranda is an account manager at a large consulting firm and is offered insurance through her employer. When MNsure open enrollment began, she decided to check it out, just to compare her employer costs and coverage with what was offered on the marketplace.
“I quickly realized that the premiums through my employer were pretty high and the coverage was not that great compared to what was being offered on MNsure.”
Because Miranda is offered insurance through her employer she is not eligible for tax credits or subsidies. However, she was able to purchase a platinum plan with a low deductible and will save about $1,250 a year in premiums and more than $1,000 a year in out of pocket costs.
“I encourage my friends, family, everyone I talk to that they should go check it out.” She believes knowledge is power, and that it’s important for people to know what their options are.
Premiums on MNsure are the lowest in the nation. Young people in Minnesota can now find health coverage at a price that fits their budget.
Karla currently holds a COBRA policy with her former employer. The policy costs her $580/month and is scheduled to expire in March.
Anticipating the end of her COBRA coverage, Karla began contacting insurance companies a couple months ago to compare plans and costs. Little did she know that her pre-existing conditions made her uninsurable.
“I consider myself a healthy person,” said Karla. “They said I was uninsurable because I’m on too many medications.”
Karla now considers the denial a blessing, because through MNsure, she will be able to purchase a comparable health insurance policy for $178/month, thanks to an advanced premium tax credit only available on MNsure. The difference in cost will save Karla more than $400 each month.
“I am going to save a lot of money. It was really good timing for me because when COBRA runs out I would basically be uninsurable.”
Starting in 2014, people like Karla cannot be turned down or charged more for pre-existing conditions. Advanced premium tax credits are only available through MNsure.
Mary discovered that she had a rare and serious medical condition in February of 2011, which required surgery and regular monitoring.
Subsequent related medical issues made continuing her career as a lawyer impossible. Her family’s health coverage at the time was a high-premium, high-deductible plan, and the regular doctor visits her treatment required meant the copays added up quickly. Earlier this year, Mary was told that her condition had recurred, and she is facing another surgery and follow-up MRIs twice a year.
Mary visited MNsure.org as soon as the site was live to explore her options. She enrolled in a plan that covers 100 percent of office visits, testing, surgeries, hospital stays, prescriptions and more—and that will save her family nearly $10,000 next year.
Julie is a self-employed massage therapist in Harmony and has been paying for health insurance completely out-of-pocket for years.
Twenty-three years ago Julie lost her husband to cancer. She was left to raise two young children on her own. With one of her children suffering from a severe physical disability, going without health insurance was not an option. “My monthly insurance payment is more than my mortgage payment,” Julie explains. “I could find cheaper plans but my deductible would skyrocket and my coverage would suffer.”
Julie is anticipating that through MNsure, she will find a health insurance policy that is affordable and gives her the coverage she needs. By using the MNsure cost calculator, it appears that savings are coming her way. “This is going to put hundreds of dollars back in my pocket each month,” says an excited Julie.
MNsure is the place for Julie to find coverage that will fit her budget needs.
James has been an independent family farmer for more than 35 years. As a dairy producer in Franklin, James embraced farming as a way of life a long time ago.
During those many years putting food on the tables of many homes, James has gone without health insurance most of the time. “If you’re a farmer, you’re going to put the farm first,” explains James. “When the decision is between buying seed and paying a health insurance premium, you’re going to buy seed.”
Three years ago James was struck by appendicitis. The bill for the operation, pills and a little over one day in the hospital came to $30K. Since he was without health insurance, James negotiated a monthly payment plan with the hospital that he will be paying for another year or longer. Because more than one fourth of his monthly income ($500) goes toward his health care bill, he doesn’t have any money left over to buy health insurance, so he remains uncovered.
James is now preparing to transition his farm to his daughter and son-in-law, Linda and Andy. “The greatest joy of being a family farmer,” says James, “is being able to share it with your kids and grandkids.” But the family worries that another health problem will pop up and, without health insurance, they could end up losing the farm.
James is looking forward to MNsure and hopes to finally get health insurance he can afford.
Sam is a college graduate trying to build a successful career in public policy. Although relatively new to the business world, Sam has already encountered the knocks and uncertainties of an unstable, depressed economy.
Finding a career-launching opportunity has been a struggle for the University of St. Thomas graduate who has degrees in philosophy and music. After serving in the AmeriCorps program for 2 years, Sam found work at a co-op and as a weekend DJ. He also devotes hours interning at community organizations where he works with youth and urban gardens, two of his greater passions. “Despite my 2 jobs, 2 internships and a lot of job searching, I remain drastically under-employed,” says Sam.
And then it happened, a simple twist of fate that we’re all sure won’t happen to us, a broken arm from a bike crash. “Neither of my jobs offered insurance at the time of the accident,” explains Sam, “and since a private plan proved too expensive for my budget, I was uninsured.” At the urging of hospital staff, Sam applied for Medical Assistance and was approved due to his low income. As a result, he was able to afford the expensive hospital visits following his accident.
Sam looks forward to the time he can enroll in an employer-sponsored plan or afford his own coverage. But for now, he understands well the benefits of public programs like Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. “MA offers me access to preventative health care so I can stay healthy,” Sam states. “It gives me security and peace of mind. One major accident or illness could mean financial ruin and derailment from my current path towards self-sufficiency.”
Beginning in October, Medical Assistance recipients will enroll and select a health insurance plan through the MNsure marketplace.
We all dream of early retirement, and Sally of Minneapolis did just that, she chose to retire early. She traded in long meetings, office politics and job-related stress for slower-paced, relaxing days where oftentimes her most crucial negotiations are with the computer.
But at age 62, Sally is not yet eligible for Medicare and must pay for her own coverage out of pocket. “I have been stuck with a very high deductible that doesn’t even cover the medications I need,” says Sally. “I think MNsure is a chance to do better and I’m looking forward to finding affordable health care that works for me.”
MNsure gives Sally another place to find coverage that fits her budget and needs until she becomes eligible to enroll in Medicare.