“People in their hard luck have a history of being frustrated and don’t reach out and explore their options. Then they lose out…there’s a lot of poverty here and people making choices that aren’t real great for their well-being,” said Tanya Beyer, an uninsured full-time worker from Duluth.
In Beyer’s case, she lost out on what would have been a beneficial health insurance plan offered by her employer. She is now without health insurance. After 2 1/2 years on Minnesota Care, her coverage expired just as the open enrollment period ended for her employer’s health insurance plan. Beyer explained, “A lot of us look at charts and get kind of boggled by them. So I missed my chance… I was really skeptical, even cynical about it. If I had found out about it, I could have enrolled.”
Beyer is an artist and sporadically sells her own work, but her main income comes from her job at a call center in Duluth. Her pay varies depending on commissions, but her base rate is only $8.91 per hour. Her Minnesota Care premiums were quite affordable for her, at $31 a month through 2012. She expressed concern about paying for medical treatment in her current situation: “If I get sick now, I’ll be going somewhere and paying a sliding fee. Invariably I’ll be paying out of pocket for something. I think about it a little every day.”
Under the Affordable Care Act policies, employers of 50 or more employees will have more incentives to enroll their employees in health insurance plans. As John Reich, public affairs officer for MNsure, stated in an email:
“If an employee were to not enroll in the employer-sponsored coverage for whatever reason and then received tax credits in the exchange, the employer may be penalized and must pay the lesser of $3,000 for each employee receiving a tax credit or $2,000 for each full-time employee, excluding the first 30 employees from the assessment. Small employers (up to 50 employees) are exempt from this requirement.”
Employers with 200 or more employees will be required to automatically enroll employees in its health insurance plan, though regulations implementing this provision have been delayed. Employees can choose to opt out of the plan.
Starting in 2014, all eligible individuals will be able to comparison shop in Affordable Insurance Exchanges. The Minnesota health insurance marketplace, MNsure, will open this year on Oct. 1, with plans effective Jan. 1, 2014. In the first year of MNsure, the open enrollment period will end on March 31, 2014. “Subsequent years’ open enrollments will align more closely with the private health insurance market. There will also be special open enrollment periods throughout the year to accommodate life events,” said Reich.
Beyer hopes others will receive adequate information about their options, to avoid a lapse in health insurance coverage. She added that she is “amazed at the number of folks born and raised in Minnesota and they don’t even know Minnesota Care exists…As long as we’re in this transition period I think we should give as much help as possible, explain things to people who are not as number-oriented.”
Learn more about your health insurance options
An online questionnaire created by the federal government helps consumers find the best health insurance plan for themselves and offers explanations of how the ACA will affect health insurance plans.
You can calculate an estimate of your costs for a health insurance plan through MNsure on the MNsure website.