MNsure gearing up amid federal uncertainty

Friday, September 1, 2017

MANKATO — If nothing else, Donald Trump has certainly remained consistent in his adversarial attitude toward the Affordable Care Act.

He's loudly proclaimed his willingness to let the law implode, and there’s little indication his Department of Health and Human Services overseeing the law will do much to promote sign-ups this year.

The administration also ceased funding to organizations tasked with helping people enroll in coverage, which has raised fears it could lead to reductions in sign-ups on the federal exchanges.

 

Minnesota has its own exchange, MNsure, and the entity is gearing up as ever to rally enrollment this year. While any federal roadblocks won’t extend to the state, MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole said the lukewarm approach of the administration isn’t helping matters.

“I think it’s causing confusion among Minnesotans and other consumers across the country,” she said. “It just reinforces how important it is for us at MNsure to continue our efforts.”

Being a state-level exchange does give the MNsure freedom to get information to consumers how they see fit.

“We can make decisions about how we advertise, how we talk with consumers and the assistance we put on the ground for them,” O’Toole said.

States in the federal exchange aren’t as able to take those steps. They’re also not able to extend the enrollment window.

Trump in April halved the window to 45 days for people signing up on the federal exchange at the recommendation of some insurers. Critics said this too could lead to fewer sign-ups.

MNsure had some flexibility to set its own window, so it did so. The enrollment window will run from Nov. 1 through Jan. 14. It’s a month longer than most states, although shorter than it was last year.

Broker enrollment centers will again be set up to help consumers through the sign-up process this year. Mankato has a new broker enrollment center this year, the Alexander & Haberman Agency at 100 Warren Street, Suite 300. The organization has operated enrollment centers elsewhere in the state in recent years.

Alexander & Haberman has a budget of its own for getting information out to consumers, said Chief Operating Officer Joshua Haberman.

“It’s kind of a joint effort,” he said. “We have a large marketing budget — radio, newspaper, internet.”

The agency particularly tries to reach new business owners, people turning 26 who will have to come off their parents’ health plans and others newly in need of plans.

“We’re so excited to be able to help people in Mankato and southern Minnesota, whether it’s for MNSure specific questions or any other health insurance questions at any age,” Haberman said.

O’Toole called the broker enrollment centers a vital resource. Minnesota was the first state in the country to utilize them. 

“Some of the conversations in Washington are probably confusing folks, and they’ll get some answers from the assisters in the community,” she said.

She said the state’s abilities to expand coverage windows, advertise sign-up information and continue to offer enrollment centers are prime examples of the benefits of a state-based exchange. 

“The good thing is we get to decide what works best for Minnesotans,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the Mankato Free Press. To view the original article, please click here

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