Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Why I chose the open market over MNSure January 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

ONE OF MY GREATEST STRESSORS in 2013 involved health insurance. After hours of research, many phone calls, an in-person meeting with MNSure assisters, ongoing issues with the state’s health insurance exchange website, many attempts to complete an application, and some muttered choice words, tears and extreme frustration, I finally have a new insurance plan with a lower deductible, better benefits and a lower premium than my old plan.

MNSure website edited screen shot

An edited screen shot of the mnsure.org home page.

But it’s through the open market, not Minnesota’s online health insurance exchange.

That’s despite qualifying for $18 in monthly assistance, or so I’ve been notified online and in a letter I received on December 31, 2013, from MNSure.

No, thank you. I do not want the $216 annual subsidy to help pay my health insurance premium. It is not worth the uncertainty and stress and dealing with a government program. If the assistance was higher, I likely would accept the monies. But then again, maybe not.

So for now I’ve opted to purchase health insurance off the exchange for $441/month.

I’ve experienced too much uncertainty and confusion through the entire MNSure process from unclear application questions to frustrated assisters to a MNSure rep who phoned to tell me I had to resubmit my app because, “due to technical errors, calculations were incorrect.” Initially I was told I didn’t qualify for any government aid.

How could I believe anything I was told or read or mailed? My trust and confidence in the process have been nearly non-existent.

Sunday morning, after church, my husband and I sat down at the dining room table and examined off-exchange policies from two companies. I needed to choose a new plan because I could no longer afford my grandfathered-in $3,000 deductible individual policy. The premium on that plan increased $108, to $562/month, on January 1, 2014, with no change in benefits, including no free preventative care.

To be honest, my insurer ticked me off with the $108/month premium increase, sending me a bill for $1,627 (which I paid) and then billing me for an additional $300 shortly thereafter to continue my coverage until April 1. I won’t get into details, but suffice to say I was not happy. The additional $300 payment issue was finally resolved to my satisfaction, but still left me angry that I even had to deal with this situation in the first place.

I am now with a new company, and therein lies the single most positive change for me through the Affordable Care Act. Prior to this, due to a pre-existing condition, I was stuck with my existing health plan. Now I cannot be denied coverage because of that existing health issue and I have “free” preventative care.

If only health insurance premiums would decrease, I’d be even more pleased. My family forks out $926/month for health insurance premiums for three of us. And, in my opinion, that isn’t exactly affordable.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “Why I chose the open market over MNSure”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a nightmare the whole healthcare system is. I don’t’ care what end you are on it is no picnic at all. I am glad you found something that will work for you, that coverage is available and that you at last feel a bit of peace about your healthcare future. I don’t know how people who don’t have the perseverance to muddle through it all do it. I suspect they just give up.

    • Oh, believe me, I was close to giving up. But I muddled through the MNSure application process, not once, but three times until the app was finally accepted and properly processed. Had I known the amount of stress and time this cost me, I would never have begun the process.

      Based on income guidelines I read, I expected more assistance. But, apparently because I can access coverage through my husband’s employer, even though the employer does not pay a cent of the premium and my monthly premium would be $572, I could get only that minimal $18/month.

      My new plan is not perfect, but it’s way better than my grandfathered-in plan and less costly. The one major drawback is that the Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester are out-of-network. So I told Randy, “Don’t ship me to Rochester.”

  2. Darren B. Says:

    “The one major drawback is that the Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester are out-of-network.”

    Mayo is out of network for virtually every plan.

    I’m pleased you were able to find a health care plan. I was in the same boat over a year ago when I was out of work and could only afford a super high deductible plan. I was just hoping that my kids and I could stay well until I found a job with an employer subsidized plan – one of the reasons I think that health care and employment should be divorced from each other.

    • You are correct on Mayo being out-of-network with nearly every plan.

      Since I’m self-employed, I’m in that difficult situation, too, of not having employer subsidized health insurance. My husband’s employer pays half of his premium, which is not a lot, but at least it’s something.

      That’s an interesting point you bring up–divorcing healthcare and employment. If I didn’t have access to health insurance through my husband’s work, I’d certainly qualify for much more assistance than $18/month. But, bottom line, our family can’t afford to put myself and our son on that employer’s health plan with zero employer contribution toward family coverage.

  3. Insurance is a pain in the butt and acts like a part-time job at times. I have a new HSA provider this year and hoping that it is much better than the past few years (here is my part-time job). The cost is so not affordable for a year and it amazes me what is paid out of pocket towards the end of the year too. Wishing You the Best!

  4. hotlyspiced Says:

    You do seem to pay so much for health cover in the US and I have no idea why (except that you live in the most litigious society on earth). It’s always such a major headache sorting out health insurance. I had to do the same this year and yes, it involved changing plans and paying more and in March there’ll be an 8% increase to the premium so year after year it becomes less and less affordable. But I can’t complain – the Australian health system appears to be so much better and more affordable than what you have access to. Good luck! xx

  5. Jackie Says:

    I’m glad that’s finally all behind you Audrey. What an awful experience, I would not wish that on anyone. Sounds like you have some peace in your words and are happy with what you’ve decided on. Here’s to a healthy year for you and your family!

    • Yes, I am so glad this is behind me. At least for a year. The plan I chose is certainly better than the one I had and less costly, so I feel good about that. A healthy year would be great. Yes, absolutely.

      Now I have taxes and completing the FAFSA to look forward to in January and February. Oh, joy.

  6. treadlemusic Says:

    The one thing that is quite well known in the pharmaceutical industry is that those of us in the US pay the highest so the rest of the world doesn’t have to!!! I still suspect that this whole Obama-care “thing” is the first little step toward socialized medicine and that is NOT the way to go……..just ask all the Canadians who come to the US to have procedures done (for cash) because they canNOT get them done with their system. I’m glad you found something that will meet your needs.

  7. ryanware Says:

    So, is the exchange MN only companies or have they actually allowed insurers to compete with one another across state lines?

    I have nothing good to say about Obama care or the wonderful people that passed it without reading most of it. But I do think it’s here to stay. The left wants it because they like things like that the right wants it because it allows companies to dump their employees onto the govt. plan. Similar to 1974 with the passage of ERISA when we went from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. I think this will be that big for companies in some instances.

    • That’s what I thought originally, Ryan, that we could access health insurance from anywhere. But nope, these are only in-state plans and limited. Folks in the metro have way more choices than me in Rice County. Figure that one out.

      I’m not happy with the idea of government stepping in and telling us we all need to buy health insurance. But, like you, I expect the Affordable Care Act (affordable to whom?) is here to stay and I decided to see if I might benefit from the program to reduce my premiums. For only $18/month, it is not worth the stress, trouble or obstacles. The entire application process proved extremely challenging, stressful, time-consuming and frustrating.

  8. I’m glad you found something that is satisfying. 🙂

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