Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Locals: Beware of 'MNsure trap'

 

C.M. Swanson

Through MNsure, Robert and Julie Gelle are enrolled in the Minnesota Care program. Through various snags in the system, the Gelles discovered the state had been paying their premiums, resulting in a lien on their estate of more than $16,000 payable upon the couple's demise. Frustrations mount as the couple seems unable to cancel enrollment in the system.

This is the ongoing story of three couples finding themselves in what they term the "MNsure Trap." What they have in common is feeling bamboozled into state-paid premiums upon enrollment in a MNsure health care program, then discovering the fact that a lien on their personal assets will go into effect upon their demise. Increasing their dismay is not being allowed to pay the intended lien in advance to be rid of it.

The Killruds

Scott and Ellen Killrud own a 480-acre farm in Norman Township, where they raise Black Angus cattle. He also works part-time for the county, grading and plowing roads, a position he has held for 25 years. She works in the school system. The couple raised two children.

Being farmers with part-time outside employment, they purchased health insurance through an insurance agency until 2011 when premiums nearly equaled their monthly income. At that time, they made the decision to go without insurance.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made insurance mandatory, Scott logged on to the MNsure website, Minnesota's provision for ACA, in December 2013 to look for a health care plan. Like many others, he found the site "completely dysfunctional."

Early in 2014, with the assistance of a Navigator trained in the workings of the MNsure website, the Killruds enrolled in UCare, a Minnesota Health Care Medical Assistance program for which they would not be charged monthly premiums.

Months later, Scott was browsing the Minnesota Department of Human Services "Notice of Privacy Practices and Notice of Rights and Responsibilities" pamphlet he received in the mail. A paragraph near the end of the pamphlet caught his eye, stating Minnesota's provision for collecting state-paid premiums for people 55 years old or older is a lien placed on personal assets of the insured upon their demise.

Though Scott was just under 55, Ellen was over. Upon telephone inquiry, he learned the state had been paying premiums on Ellen's behalf. The news was startling. Even more shocking was the total accumulation of premiums paid was just over $11,000.

After cancelling all coverage through MNsure, the couple decided to cut their losses, pay the debt and move on. That is when they discovered paying the debt in advance of one's demise is not allowed.

"I would like to have an end put to it," said Scott. "I want to write a check and get it out of my life because I think it's wrong, and it was brought onto us under really ambiguous pretenses."

The Rayburns

Rick and Rose Rayburn have a lifestyle many Americans romanticize about, though few actually attain. They live totally off the grid.

"I don't have a mortgage because I built my house from the land," said Rick, who lives on 180 acres in Finlayson where he and Rose raised five children. Water is hand pumped at the well, then hauled to the house or used in the two-story log barn. The majority of their food is raised on their land or grown in their garden. Meals are cooked on a wood stove. Kerosene lanterns provide light. The house is heated with wood.

While keeping the land, house and outbuildings require a majority of their time, Rick also has a part-time job driving truck in the Minneapolis area, a position he has held for nearly 20 years.

During those years, the Rayburns purchased health insurance through an insurance agency. Both Rick and Rose are now over 55. Due to rising premiums, late in 2013, they decided to look into plans being offered through the Affordable Care Act. Rose went to an insurance agency where the agent assisted her in submitting an application through the MNsure website.

In February of 2014, they received a notice in the mail stating they were enrolled in a Minnesota Medical Assistance program for which they would not have to pay premiums. Rick stated his offer to pay premiums was denied, nor was he apprised of premium amounts.

Two years later, the Rayburns, having seen the written notice regarding state-paid premiums through MNsure, Rick called the State Recovery Agent and learned the state was paying premiums on their behalf. He also learned the total accumulation of over $30,000 will be payable only through a lien being placed on their estate upon their demise.

"That's the creepy part because it's like they're just waiting for me to die," said Rick. "It also makes you feel like, in some sense, you want to hurry up and become dead so you can get it off your back, which is just twisted."

The Gelles

Sandstone residents Robert and Julie Gelle have worked all their lives. Now 65 years old and retired from his job as a mechanic, Robert is looking forward to enjoying life with Julie, who decided to retire at age 62 from her position in health care.

Having had insurance through work, prior to retirement Julie accepted the responsibility of purchasing health care until she is eligible for Medicare. At the time, Robert was 64, so he required six months of insurance until he reached Medicare age as well.

In November of 2014, with her daughter's assistance, she went on the MNsure website to look for a suitable plan. Though she filled out an application, she wasn't sure she was enrolled because she did not see a notice of completion. That was only the beginning of the Gelle's challenges with the MNsure system.

C.M. Swanson

Rose and Rick Rayburn were enrolled in a Minnesota Medical Assistance program through MNsure for two years when they received notice the state was paying premiums on their behalf, accumulating more than $30,000 payable only through a lien placed on their estate upon their demise.

In January the Gelles received notification of their enrollment in the Minnesota Care program for which they would be charged $50 a month. Throughout the course of that year, one snag followed another including not receiving subsequent invoices, being switched to a variety of programs without being consulted, receiving incorrect invoices, and finally finding out the state had been paying their premiums. Upon the couples' demise, a lien will be placed on their estate for over $16,000.

"We've worked all our lives but now we're basically deemed poor and destitute," said Julie. "They signed us up for Medical Assistance without giving us any other option. They're just assuming you can't pay for anything else."

Julie stated she cancelled all enrollments through MNsure by giving notice in writing and over the telephone. However, to her dismay, as of February, after following up on the matter, she discovered they are still enrolled in the system. She continues to put time into telephone calls and written communication to resolve the situation.

This is the first of a three-part article series. See next week's Moose Lake Star-Gazette for tips on working with the MNsure website and what actions the Killruds, Rayburns and Gelles are taking to resolve their situations with MNsure.

 

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