Navigating MNSure and Indian Health Services
Wednesday, December 04 2013
Written by By Sommer Dey Rosette-Poolaw, Indian Health Board of Minneapolis,
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The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) is a federal law that provides health insurance coverage options that are more accessible and affordable. Minnesota, like all states, was given three options to deliver insurance to its citizens. Minnesota chose a state-based exchange where the state runs its own Healthcare Marketplace, now called MNsure.

Open enrollment for MNsure began on Oct. 1 for most Minnesotans. American Indians of Minnesota, tribally-enrolled or documented lineage, have no closing date to enroll in a healthcare plan; more information will be provided in regards to proof of enrollment and lineage. We are also exempt from the federal mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance that includes tax penalties.

If you are eligible for Medical Assistance (Medicaid), you are not required to enroll in a health plan. Now, with any large complex system to implement, there are some bugs to be fixed with the online enrollment. Please be patient or schedule an appointment with your local Certified MNsure Navigator. MNsure Marketplace offers unique benefits and opportunities for American Indians. If you receive services, or qualify for services from an IHS, Tribal, or Urban Indian Healthcare facility, you can expect:

  • Consistent care: You can continue to get care from your IHS, Tribal or Urban Indian Healthcare facility.

  • No cost sharing: You will not pay any out of pocket expenses such as copays and deductibles for any service if you receive care from an IHS, Tribal or Urban Indian Healthcare facility. You may also qualify for cost sharing for services provided by an outside provider if you meet income requirements.

  • Tribal Sponsorship: Some Minnesota tribes are supporting enrolled members by paying their insurance premiums. Contact your tribal clinic for more information.

  • Coverage: Health insurance covers the costs for health services needed outside of your IHS, Tribal or Urban Indian Healthcare facility.

  • Options: Clear descriptions of all plans with side-by-side comparisons of all private insurance companies, public programs like Medical Assistance (MA) and Minnesota Care (MNcare).

  • Better Programs: With more American Indians having some form of coverage such as Medicaid, MNCare and private insurance, Indian Health Services will be better able to provide much needed health service programs such as diabetes prevention and education and disease prevention and education.

As an American Indian growing up on the Reservation, I had access to free health care funded by the federal government through the Indian Health Service. Based on the relationship between tribes and the federal government, free health care is to be provided but as it currently stands, the medical services provided to Indian County are funded at about 50 percent of the need; and thatís a generous estimate.

Although extremely underfunded, tribal clinics work with these limited resources available to them and try their best to make end meets. However, I know of horror stories of needed care being denied for lack of funding.

Our people are continuously facing life and death situations, such as waiting for a stroke or heart attack to occur instead of treating the condition before it happens. Further, appointment wait times at tribal clinics push people to their local emergency rooms, for non-emergent issues, creating a financial burden on the healthcare system for those services. This in turn, makes it more important than ever to have additional coverage for all of your healthcare needs. If a true emergency arises, you have that assurance, without a financial burden, to receive emergency care.

I was recently hired by the Indian Health Board as the new Enrollment Specialist. My job is to help enroll as many American Indians and their families through MNsure as possible. I encourage you to take that first step in a healthy direction by taking control of your healthcare needs. Having that additional coverage can give a person piece of mind knowing that those necessary services will be covered, when needed.

I know the idea of looking for a health plan may seem foreign to some, however, the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis has staff on hand that are available to answer your questions and calm your concerns. Let me help you understand what your role is and to make this process extremely smooth and leave the worrying to me. If you would like to make an appointment with me or have questions regarding eligibility, I can be reached directly at 612-721-9883 and by email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Information can also be found on our Web site,, as well as our Indian Health Board of Minneapolis Facebook and Twitter pages.

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