Mahube: MNsure now working well
Even though the open enrollment window for MNsure has closed, the website is still available to those needing to make changes or who still need to register for medical assistance and MinnesotaCare.
MNsure is the health insurance exchange that is the state's equivalent to the federal ObamaCare exchange. And though there were problems with the MNsure website launch, Mahube-Otwa helped over 600 people navigate through the process.
About 80 to 90 percent of those people qualified for medical assistance or MinnesotaCare.
"The first year was a tough year. There's no two ways about it," Lois Greenig said.
"We had every challenge possible," navigator Greta Clements added.
But they all made it through. As of mid-April, more than 200,000 Minnesotans were enrolled through MNsure, far exceeding the state's goal.
"It's neat all the people we can help now," Clements said. Clements serves as a paid contracted navigator with Mahube-Otwa. There are 24 trained navigators throughout Mahube-Otwa.
The frustrations with the website have subsided, the program is much more user friendly, and response time is much better, the navigators said.
It used to take an hour to finish one application, but now five to six applications can be processed in that same time period.
Mahube-Otwa has gotten referrals from the county, hospitals and the MNsure site for those needing help with signing up.
Once the navigators help them, though, it's the individual's responsibility to go to the county and do any follow-up needed.
"It's truly their application; they own it," Lenius said.
For the second year, Mahube-Otwa (and four other community actions in the state) has received a grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation "in order to help people enroll in health insurance," Lenius said. It is not to promote BCBS.
Missing the deadline
There could be a penalty for those who didn't sign up for insurance during the open enrollment period. That fine is 1 percent of your income, or $95 per household member ($47.50 per child under age 18), whichever is greater. That fine will continue to increase each year without coverage.
The Mahube-Otwa navigators said they have no way of getting around those deadlines either, so don't expect them to have some magical password that will save those who missed the deadline.
Mahube-Otwa has trained navigators in each of the five counties it serves (Mahnomen, Hubbard, Becker, Otter Tail and Wadena) but insurance brokers they are not. Greenig said that they can help people with the site and paperwork, but it's up to the individual to then enroll in the insurance or purchase it at a reduced rate, depending on what they qualify for.
There are several guidelines as to household size and income that determine who qualifies and for what. For example, a family of four can make up to $31,322 to qualify for medical assistance, up to $47,100 to qualify for MinnesotaCare and up to $64,762 and $94,200 to qualify for various tax credits for private coverage.
"There is still a huge (number) of people who can still apply," Clements said of those who qualify for medical assistance and MinnesotaCare.
She said that one of the biggest misconceptions of the MNsure program is income.
"Even if parents make good money, kids can still qualify" for assistance, she said.
A chart of the complete income guidelines can be found on mnsure.org.
Still not over
Even though open enrollment has closed, that doesn't mean things have slowed down for Mahube-Otwa workers.
Depending on what insurance bracket people qualified for, they could be eligible for other Mahube-Otwa programs, too. Lenius said they have a lot of cross-assistance programs.
"We help our clients as much as possible," Greenig agreed.
Open enrollment opens again Nov. 15 for 2015 coverage. Greenig said that the state is doing some upgrading on the MNsure site, which will make things go much more smoothly in November once enrollment opens back up again.
"There is an excellent team of support here," Clements said of Mahube-Otwa. "I am sincerely impressed with this group and employees."