The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 19, 2013

Health care plan implementation gets mixed start

MANKATO — The initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been far from flawless in Blue Earth County, but it's going better than other parts of the country, the Blue Earth County Board learned Tuesday.

The county's Human Services Department is handling the portion of the "Obamacare" enrollment involving government-financed programs — Medical Assistance for low-income residents and MinnesotaCare for certain qualifying middle-income working people.

The national health care reform law, which is under intense criticism in many states that are relying on a dysfunctional federal enrollment website, is working better in states such as Minnesota that agreed to administer the program at the state level. In Minnesota, the computerized insurance exchange where people can enroll is called MnSure.

"MnSure seems to be ahead of the whole United States," said Commissioner Vance Stuehrenherg. "Everybody's looking at Minnesota and saying 'Wow.'"

But that doesn't mean everything is going smoothly.

Human Services Director Phil Claussen said 918 cases have been handled by the county, 573 of them being former MinnesotaCare policies that have been converted to the more sweeping Medical Assistance program available in Minnesota under the ACA. About 300 more new cases are pending through the MnSURE program, and 45 are now active accounts.

Of the 918 total cases, only about 5 percent were completed entirely by the automated sign-up process that was to be at the heart of the exchange-based reform plan. While that's a small percentage, it's a start, Claussen said.

"We'd like to see that number go way up, but it's nice to know there's at least a trickle happening," he said.

And Claussen would like to see the number go up soon rather than trying to handle a flood of new clients when the insurance coverage is supposed to take effect Jan. 1.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News