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MNsure: Minnesota's New Health Care Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate takes effect January 1, 2014, requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. MNsure is the state's new online health insurance marketplace. Those eligible to obtain health insurance through MNsure include Minnesota consumers and small businesses with up to fifty full-time employees. All options offered will range from free to low-cost policies for government health insurance, if you qualify. Medicaid, MinnesotaCare, and commercial health plans are all included. The federal health care law requires online insurance marketplaces to begin operating on October 1st of 2013, so those eligible for MNsure have already had time to select a plan.

Since the MNsure website launched in October, qualified Minnesotans have been able to shop for health insurance online. The process is fairly simple and user-friendly. Individuals are required to enter a lot information regarding their annual income. They are then routed to programs specific to their needs and qualifications. Whether they qualify for government insurance programs or commercial plans depends on their income. A side-by-side comparison of programs and extensive information about premiums and out-of-pocket costs is provided. MNsure even notifies individuals who qualify for tax credits or financial help. The system guides users through each step and assistance over the phone for those with questions.

Minnesota is not the first state to offer an online marketplace for health insurance. Currently, it is one of the sixteen states running its own online marketplace. Every state will be offering some form of exchange. Supporters of MNsure believed an online marketplace was the best option, because the state would benefit from its continued history of health care policy innovation and cost-containment. Supporters also argued that this system would allow the state to provide plans that are tailored to the needs of residents. Many believe that there is no "one size fits all" plan that works for everyone.

Not everyone is affected by this change. If you have health insurance through a large employer, you will not be using MNsure. It is to be used by those shopping for individual, family, or small business coverage. Federal subsidies are available if your agent or broker is registered to sell on MNsure, and people buying on their own insurance can get subsidies on MNsure if they are eligible. Those who qualify for Minnesota's Medicaid program or MinnesotaCare can enroll through MNsure. MNsure will also be offering free or low-cost programs for people with incomes below two hundred percent of the federal poverty level. Those enrolled in Medicare will not be affected.

To find out more about MNsure, log on to their website athttp://www.mnsure.org. The deadline to apply was December 31st of 2013. For those who already applied, plan coverage began on January 1st of 2014.

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