FAIRMONT - Local insurance brokers have a lot of unanswered questions about MNsure, based on the response to a presentation given Thursday by a MNsure community outreach liaison.
Ellen De la Torre works in MNsure's marketing department to promote Minnesota's health insurance exchange in the southwest region of the state. She had a tough audience Thursday morning at the Ranch Restaurant.
"First of all, it's very easy," she said, describing the enrollment process. (Open enrollment ended March 31.) Just create an online account, enter your personal information, and select a plan.
According to De la Torre, if you do have questions, there are several options:
o The MNsure call center, available Monday through Saturday.
o Trained "navigators" are also available to help. Minnesota Valley Action Council serves as the navigator for the Fairmont area.
o Insurance agents and brokers.
o Certified application counselors, who have received MNsure training through their jobs at hospitals, clinics, associations, etc.
An online assister directory also gives names of people willing to help with MNsure questions. For Martin County, the directory shows 12 brokers in Fairmont and two in Truman. For specific information on these brokers, go to www.mnsure.org/tools/locater/index.jsp
But what happens when the people who are supposed to have the answers to these questions don't have them? That was a frequent concern shared Thursday, and one of several that De la Torre agreed to pass along the MNsure chain of command.
"We have a lot of questions here. We're frustrated. Our clients are frustrated. Who do we talk to? Who can answer our questions?" asked Mary McClure, risk adviser with C.O. Brown in Mankato. She estimated she was on hold, waiting on the phone for answers to her questions, for probably 80 hours during MNsure's open enrollment period. "... We're in the battlefield here."
Matt Barnes with Financial Concepts in Mankato said he has had no better luck trying to email his questions to MNsure.
"Their only response is that they're not answering emails. They're too busy," he said.
One of his greatest frustrations is the inability to make plan changes with MNsure, and the inability to directly notify the insurance provider of plan changes. He has clients with newborn babies who aren't insured, since MNsure is in the process of fixing its technology in order to make plan changes. These infants will be covered retroactively, but in the meantime, Barnes said, hospitals are leery that they won't get paid, and people aren't sure what to do with their medical bills.
Another audience member complained that MNsure isn't promoting insurance brokers and agents.
He promoted brokers and agents as important resources the state should utilize, since MNsure needs more signups from uninsured people who don't qualify for medical assistance.
De la Torre agreed: "I think having insurance agents closer to MNsure will only make the program stronger," she said.