St Paul (KROC AM News) -  Open enrollment began Tuesday for those planning to use Minnesota’s MNsure online exchange to obtain health insurance coverage for 2017.  

The enrollment period ends Jan. 31 but  officials are urging Minnesotans to complete an application as soon as possible to avoid delays and other possible problems. Consumers must be enrolled by Dec 15 in order to obtain mandated coverage by Jan 1. Those without coverage will face penalties.

MNsure has beefed up its operations to deal with the tens of thousands who are expected to use the website between now and the end of January.  

The following information is from the MNsure office.

What Minnesotans Need To Know About MNsure Open Enrollment

To ensure Minnesotans have accurate information moving into the 2017 open enrollment period, MNsure has compiled a few key points:

  1. MNsure Can Save You Money
    Financial help is available only through MNsure. More than 100,000 Minnesotans could have benefited from money saving tax credits in 2016, but missed out because they didn’t enroll through MNsure.

    “These tax credits act like instant discounts off monthly insurance premiums and can lessen, or in some cases, completely eliminate large premium increases,” said CEO Allison O’Toole. "For instance, individuals with incomes up to $47,520 and families of four with incomes up to $97,200 qualify for tax credits."
  1. Free, In-Person Assistance is Available
    MNsure has hundreds of certified navigators and brokers than can offer free, in-person enrollment help. In addition, MNsure broker enrollment centers as well as outreach and enrollment grantees can offer expert assistance. The 2017 assister directory is accessible from the homepage. The directory is searchable by organization, county, city, zip code and language.

Minnesotans can also find enrollment education and events near them on the 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,” said O’Toole. “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.”

  1. Compare Plans from Multiple Companies Side-By-Side
    For the second year in a row, MNsure's plan comparison tool will allow Minnesotans to answer questions about their health care usage and find a plan that best meets their individual insurance needs. This tool lets consumers compare plans by premium, deductible, co-pay and total out-of-pocket amount. The plan comparison tool has been updated with 2017 plan data and is accessible from the homepage.
    "More than 80% of consumers used this tool in 2016 and reported it was helpful in selecting a plan," said O’Toole.

It is also important for Minnesotans to know that some health insurance plans that were offered on MNsure in 2016 will not be offered on MNsure in 2017. For example, in 2017, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will not sell Blue Cross individual health insurance plans in the state—both inside and outside of MNsure. (The company’s Blue Plus HMO plans will still be available in 2017.)

  1. Know the Deadlines
    Open enrollment ends on January 31, 2017, but that doesn’t mean Minnesotans should wait that long to complete their enrollment. In order to secure coverage for January 1, 2017, a consumer must be enrolled by December 15, 2016; however, it is 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.
  2. MNsure is 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 Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Saturdays 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Minnesotans can also tweet to @MNsure or leave a message on the MNsure Facebook page. Questions sent to MNsure's social media accounts are answered during regular business hours.

The 2017 open enrollment period begins November 1, 2016, and ends on January 31, 2017. Minnesotans eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can enroll year-round. As of February 2016, 96 percent of Minnesotans have health coverage—the highest percentage in state history.

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