Other’s Opinion: A heads-up for those with MNCare

Published 8:06 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

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Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monthly bills were paused during the pandemic but are resuming for about 46,000 enrollees. Timely payment is important to prevent coverage loss.

Those relying on MinnesotaCare, the state’s pioneering health insurance program, should closely watch their mailbox this month to see if they’re among the thousands of enrollees across the state who need to start paying the program’s modest monthly premiums again.

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MinnesotaCare serves an important niche, providing coverage to those who earn too much to be eligible for traditional medical assistance but not enough to comfortably afford the cost of private health insurance. About 102,000 people are enrolled.

Normally, enrollees who can afford to do so are expected to pay monthly premiums, which currently range from $4 to $28 a month, to help offset the program’s cost. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these monthly bills were paused as part of the nation’s public health response. It was a sensible, compassionate move, one that ensured people affected by layoffs or other economic upheaval could continue to access medical care during this public health crisis.

But the end of the COVID emergency means a return to normal operations for public health programs. That means monthly premiums are resuming for some, though not all, MinnesotaCare participants — generally, those with incomes 160% or above of the federal poverty level (with some exceptions). It’s an important public health message, one that merits amplification in these pages and elsewhere to raise awareness and prevent coverage gaps if the bill goes unpaid.

This week, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) estimated that about 46,000 MinnesotaCare enrollees will be affected by the change and need to start paying monthly premiums again. The bills will come by mail from the DHS and are on their way. With enrollees “out of practice” at making these payments, DHS officials are working hard to communicate this change and note the importance of making payments in a timely fashion.

“Enrollees must pay their premiums by the due date to avoid losing coverage,” the agency said in a statement. At the same time, officials also note there will be a “grace month” of coverage as this change rolls out for enrollees who fail to pay.

Those who lose their coverage can re-enroll in MinnesotaCare, but they have to pay the past-due premium and a premium for the future month of coverage, DHS officials note.

DHS Assistant Commissioner John Connolly noted that a customer service line is available for those with questions. Those numbers are 800-657-3672 or 651-297-3862. He also encouraged enrollees to reach out to ensure that their contact information is current so they don’t miss the mailing.

Answers to common questions about the premiums restarting are available at tinyurl.com/mncarepremiuminfo. Minnesotans who want to estimate what their premium will be based on their income can also go to tinyurl.com/mncarepremiumestimator.