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Older Workers Welcome MN's Monumental Shift In Health Care

PHOTO: Many older workers who lost their jobs and health insurance over the recession are expected to be among those signing up when Minnesota's new marketplace opens on October 1st. CREDIT: DIAC Images
PHOTO: Many older workers who lost their jobs and health insurance over the recession are expected to be among those signing up when Minnesota's new marketplace opens on October 1st. CREDIT: DIAC Images
September 16, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The opening of Minnesota's new health insurance marketplace is now just a couple weeks away, and one segment expected to benefit most is older workers who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

According to Seth Boffeli, communications director for AARP of Minnesota, after this last recession, many such older workers lost jobs and since have been left with very few if any viable options for health insurance.

"Really it will be a big improvement for those under 65, and for them having access to affordable health care that provides all the right benefits, doesn't exclude them for things such as preexisting conditions, is a really huge step forward."

Enrollment for the various plans under MNSure begins October 1.

Among those who will be signing up for coverage is Peggy Hiestand-Harri of Hermantown. She and her husband tried retiring early, but got hit by the market crash and medical bills and now they pay around $1,700 a month for health insurance, more than all of their other living expenses combined. Harri said the exchange will give them options for affordable coverage, and that means she can again go in for regular preventive check-ups, something which is vital, in view of her family health history.

"I have four members of my family that have breast cancer," she recounted. "There's heart disease in my family, and stroke. So the three major leading causes of death, I have in my family. So that's going to help me a lot, is the prevention piece."

With this monumental shift in health-care coverage, starting today and running into the New Year, AARP of Minnesota is offering a number of free informational sessions on the exchange, and also on the expansion of Medicaid, which will make more people in the state eligible. At this point, Seth Boffeli said, about a dozen of these sessions have been scheduled and they're open to requests, with all the details at the AARP of Minnesota website.

"We're training dozens of volunteers who will go out and give some of these presentations," he said. "So if there are community groups or businesses or even neighborhoods that want to have someone come in and speak to them, that's something that we'd be more than happy to accommodate."

In all, about 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to get health-care coverage through the new marketplace.

More information is at bit.ly/1aArPDN and bit.ly/18gKD6x.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN