Minnesotans are starting to feel the effects of the Affordable Care Act, and some who were perfectly happy with their coverage are now finding out their policies are coming to an end and they may have to pay more.
If a plan doesn't cover things mandated by the law, such as emergency visits, maternity care, or mental health treatment, it may be discontinued. Although the new insurance products may offer better coverage, they may also come with a bigger price tag -- and those who don't need the additional coverage say the required change seems like a broken promise from the president.
"If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period," President Barack Obama said when pitching health care reform.
Larry Walburn's auto body shop is nestled in the rolling hills of rural Rice County. Break something, and he'll fix it -- but he believes Obamacare is beyond repair.
"There might be good things in it, but everything I've seen doesn't do the common working person, farmers who pay their premiums, any good," he said.
A few weeks ago, Walburn got a letter from HealthPartners that told him his insurance policy is being discontinued because it doesn't meet the new minimum standards under the ACA.
Walburn did some rough calculations and found that although he and his wife were paying $658 a month for their prior plan, the new one offered by HealthPartners would cost $1,015 a month, an extra $4,280 per year. Walburn said that figure doesn't add up to the promise Obama made.
"It's a lie, straight out lie," he said. "The only way you keep it is if you have to pay a bunch more in premiums."
Walburn isn't alone in his frustration either. It is estimated that about 2 million Americans -- less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population -- won't be able to keep their health insurance because it doesn't meet the minimum requirements, but Walburn and his neighbors also have another problem -- where they live.
Residents in southern Minnesota pay more for their plans because there is so little competition just an hour away from the Mayo Clinic, which seems ironic since the Minnesota Legislature just approved $400 million in subsidies to expand the Rochester facility. That will make it even more dominant.
Walburn may turn to MNsure for a new option, but he and his wife aren't happy about it. In the end, the options available may not be much better. Under the gold plan, Walburn and his wife would pay about $982 per month, which is comparable to what HealthPartners is offering. If the Walburns lived in the Twin Cities, the pair would pay about $764. For the mechanic, the whole system seems jacked up and a little greasy.
It is important to note that Walburn and his wife may be eligible for tax credits that could lower the cost of their monthly premiums depending on their income.
MNsure offered no comment for this story.