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MNsure rolls out in Lake Co.

Aaron Thun, an insurance agent in Two Harbors, is one of just two providers in Lake County certified to offer help customers navigate MNSure, the state's new health insurance "marketplace." So far, his services haven't been in high demand -- last Friday, three days after the exchange opened, nobody had called to ask him about the new options for health care coverage.

"It's too early in the ballgame," he said.

MNsure is the state's new way to buy health insurance, launched in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. The online marketplace targets people who don't have health insurance.

As of Friday, about 5,000 Minnesotans had created an account on the MNSure website.

Director April Todd-Malmlov said that she's impressed with that number, because unlike other states, users in Minnesota can shop anonymously -- they don't have to make an account to browse health insurance -- so all 5,000 were interested in finding out more.

"We really anticipated that most people in the first few weeks would be using the anonymous shopping tool. We are very pleased to see the number of accounts that are coming through," Todd Malmlov said last week.

There have been glitches in the website, including extensive problems with an identity-verification process, but Todd-Malmlov said they have mostly been ironed out.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that 10 percent of residents in Lake County are uninsured, compared to 11 percent in St. Louis County and 13 percent in Cook County. Under the Affordable Care Act, those who forgo health insurance will pay fines -- in 2014, $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income, whichever is greater. Fines will be assessed on income-tax returns.

If you're insured, you don't need to do anything. Those covered under Medicare and employer health plans won't be affected by MNsure. Those covered by Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, programs for low-income residents, will be switched over to MNsure, but they will receive personalized instructions by mail.

If you're uninsured, there are a number of options available. Two main changes that came with the Affordable Care Act ensure that people with existing health problems cannot be denied coverage and young adults can stay covered under their parents' plan until the age of 26. As for the marketplace, there are many plans available with varying levels of coverage and prices. Many residents will be eligible for tax credits to help cover insurance premiums. The open enrollment period lasts until March 31, 2014, and coverage will begin in January for those who sign up by December.


Still confused about how to sign up for health insurance from MNsure?

Statewide resources

(855) 366-7873, staffed 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays

Trained local contacts:

Carol Krynski at the Greater Minnesota Agency, 36 Shopping Center Road, Suite 100, Silver Bay. or (218) 226-4261.

Aaron Thun at Norshor Agency, 526 Seventh St, Two Harbors. or (218) 834-2288.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
(218) 834-2141