With the 2016 open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1, MNsure is reminding Minnesotans about five things they should keep in mind when shopping and comparing health-insurance-coverage options for themselves or their family.
MNsure can save you money
Earlier this month, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released 2016 individual health-insurance-market premiums. These premiums are increasing between 14-49 percent on average. With an increase in premium, it’s important for Minnesotans to remember MNsure is the only place to qualify for financial help that can lessen, or in some cases completely eliminate these large premium increases.
It’s also important for Minnesotans to know some health-insurance plans that were offered on MNsure in 2015 will not be offered on MNsure in 2016. If a Minnesotan enrolled in one of these plans is currently receiving financial help through MNsure, and they remain with that plan in 2016, financial help will no longer be available, which could result in a larger-than-expected premium.
“We don’t want Minnesotans to leave money on the table so we are encouraging anyone who purchases health insurance on their own to check out MNsure to see what kind of financial help they may qualify for,” said interim CEO Allison O’Toole. “A single person earning around $47,000 a year, or a family of four earning up to $97,000 a year may qualify for some help. Last year, Minnesotans saved more than $31 million through MNsure. That’s real money.”
Free, in-person assistance is available
MNsure has hundreds of certified navigators and brokers who can offer free, in-person enrollment assistance. In addition, MNsure broker enrollment centers as well as outreach and enrollment grantees can offer expert assistance. The 2016 assister directory is currently being updated as new and returning assisters become certified, and is accessible from the MNsure.org homepage. The directory is searchable by organization, county, city, zip code and language.
Minnesotans can also find enrollment education and events near them on a newly designed online-enrollment-opportunities calendar.
“Our research echoes what we hear nationally, and that is a lot of people need some help when it comes to making health-insurance decisions,” O’Toole said. “We’re excited to expand the Broker Enrollment Center initiative, and we’re the first state in the country to offer this unique assistance to consumers.”
Compare plans from multiple companies side-by-side
No one likes to spend hours going from website to website researching health insurance plans from multiple different companies. MNsure allows Minnesotans to compare plans side-by-side in one place to find the best options.
In early November, a new plan comparison tool by Consumers’ Checkbook will allow Minnesotans to answer questions about their health-care usage and find a plan that best meets their individual insurance needs. This is a first of its kind tool in Minnesota that will allow consumers to not only compare plans by premium, but by deductible, co-pay and total out-of-pocket amount. This new tool will be accessible from the MNsure.org homepage.
“Consumers’ Checkbook is a well-respected, nonprofit organization working with other state-based health-insurance exchanges on creating tools that help educate consumers about their plan options,” O’Toole said.
Don’t wait to enroll
Open enrollment ends on Jan. 31, 2016, but that doesn’t mean Minnesotans should wait that long to complete their enrollment. In the previous two open- enrollment periods, traffic and calls to MNsure increase around deadlines. In order to secure coverage for Jan. 1, 2016, a consumer must be enrolled by Dec. 15, 2015, however, it’s in the consumer’s best interest to complete their application well ahead of this deadline. This will ensure there are no delays or gaps in coverage.
“We know people don’t like to think about their health insurance and often times wait until the last minute to complete their enrollment, however, this really puts people at a disadvantage,” O’Toole said. “We’ve seen the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage be extended in the past, but we can’t guarantee that will happen again. Therefore, we are encouraging Minnesotans to shop early.”
It’s currently the law for most Americans to have health-insurance coverage. If you are required to get health-insurance coverage and do not do so, you will be subject to a tax penalty, which increases over time.
In 2015, the tax penalty was the greater of $325 per adult, or 2 percent of taxable income, up to a maximum of $975 per family.
In 2016, the tax penalty will be the greater of $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of taxable income, up to a maximum of $2,085 per family.
After 2016, the tax penalty increases annually based on a cost-of-living adjustment.
We’re here to help
The MNsure Contact Center will be open extended hours through open enrollment. Minnesotans can call the MNsure Contact Center at 1-855-366-7873 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturdays and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
Minnesotans can also Tweet us @MNsure or leave a message on our Facebook page. Questions sent to our social-media accounts are answered during regular business hours.
The 2016 open enrollment period is Nov. 1, 2015, and ends on Jan. 31, 2016. Small-group employers and Minnesotans eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can enroll year round. As of May 2014, 95 percent of Minnesotans have health coverage—the highest percentage in state history.