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Critics & Consumers Both Calling On MNsure

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The new state run health care exchange is already facing troubles and you can't even buy-in until October.

On Tuesday the head of MNsure said its original estimates on premiums was too high. MNsure is the health exchange required under President Obama's health care reform plan.

Minnesota estimates $1.3 million people will sign up and buy health insurance.

Tuesday was the first day MNsure opened up its call center for people who have questions. Consumers aren't the only ones who have questions, critics do as well.

For weeks MNsure's website has featured a cost calculator for consumers to estimate premiums.

"I would say to people looking at the calculator today, they are based on national numbers and we are waiting on some Minnesota numbers," MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov said. "And we do anticipate in Minnesota that they will be much lower."

The current calculator says a single 30-year-old earning $42,000 a year would pay a monthly premium of $327 and a family of four earning $50,000 a year would pay $396 a month. For now, MNsure won't say how much lower the real premiums will be.

"Check back on Friday, there will be a lot more detailed information about what premiums will be," Todd-Malmlov said.

"It almost sounds like a sale," Hamline professor David Schultz said. "It's sort of like saying,
'Here is our regular price, but now it's going to be cheaper.' It almost sounds like a bait and switch there. I am not sure they meant that to be the case. But what I am concerned about is that it may be confusing people."

To help with confusion MNsure opened a call center today that fielded 50 calls an hour. Consumers can purchase insurance through MNsure starting Oct. 1, but coverage wont begin until Jan. 1.

MNsure said with the help of their Paul Bunyan ad campaign they will recruit 1.3 million Minnesotans. That's a number some say may be difficult to reach.

"It's going to presuppose first that there are a lot of people who know they need to buy health insurance," Shulz said. "Two; that they know about that website. And three that they can make an intelligent decision while shopping along the way."

The numbers for that MNsure call center are 855-3-MNSURE -- 855-366-7873.

Starting in 2014, if you don't have health insurance, the IRS will assess you a tax penalty of $95 dollars or one percent of your income.

That penalty though will rise by 2016 to $695 dollars or 2.5 percent of your income.

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