MNsure: Be sure of what you are buying

NEW ULM – With all the controversy and concern swirling around the government’s Affordable Care Act, the problems trying to sign up on the government’s web site, and figuring out who gets to keep what health policies, there’s one important thing people should remember, according to Toby Freier, president of the New Ulm Medical Center.

It’s a lot better to have health insurance than to not have it, he said, and those who can get it shouldn’t let the problems with the rollout of the ACA stop them.

“With no insurance, you’re less likely to get preventative health care. Insurance policies will pay for things like annual checkups, mammograms, colonoscopies, tests and treatments for chronic illness like diabetes. They help people get treatment before big problems arise, like a late cancer diagnosis or out-of-control chronic illnesses that are a lot harder and more expensive to treat.”

New Ulm Medical Center is actively encouraging its patients who don’t have health coverage to sign up through the state’s MNsure program, said Freier. NUMC is getting five of its staff members certified as enrollment counselors to help guide people through the process. While MNsure is working a lot better than the federal government’s web site it can still be difficult to find out exactly what one is buying into, said Freier.

“I’ve spent a lot of hours on the computer as if I were purchasing health coverage,” said Freier. “It’s not that easy to find out if the policy you buy will pay for the doctors you want to see.”

Freier said there are 29 health plans offered by four different major providers available to Brown County residents. Of those plans, 17 would not pay for going to New Ulm Medical Center.

Providers with in-network coverage, which would allow include coverage for services at NUMC, include Preferred One and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Plans offered by Health Partners and Medica would not pay for seeing a provider at NUMC.

Freier cautioned that this only applies to plans available through MNsure. Medica and Health Partners have a multitude of other plans, available outside of MNsure, which would provide local coverage.

The state’s website doesn’t make it easy to find out who covers what, said Freier. It takes five different steps, clicking on links and downloading documents, to find out which providers the Medica plans cover, said Freier. Some of the documents may use programs like Excel which are not on everyone’s computers.

NUMC will have enrollment counselors available for appointments to help people search through their options. Appointments with a counselor can be made by calling 507-217-5756 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

People can also check with insurance agents in town. Most are certified as enrollment counselors and can assist people with their search for health insurance.

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