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Monday is deadline for MNsure

Got health insurance? If not, better move fast: Monday is the deadline for purchasing health coverage through the MNsure online insurance exchange.

That’s when Open Enrollment ends, and if you have put off purchasing health insurance, now is the time to explore your options and purchase coverage.

Open enrollment is the specific time of the year that someone can buy or change their insurance coverage; the next open enrollment period won’t start until Nov. 15.

 Buying a plan during open enrollment is the best way to ensure that you have coverage if you get sick, to protect yourself or your family financially.

Why should you care? After Monday, the “individual responsibility requirement” of the Affordable Care Act (also known as the individual mandate) will kick in.

That means everybody must have health insurance of some kind. If you don’t have insurance that qualifies as “minimum essential coverage,” you may have to pay a fee at the end of the year when you file taxes.

In the first year, the fine is $95 per adult or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

In following years the penalty goes up substantially.

In general, if you already have health insurance, you don’t need to buy a new plan.

“Minimum essential coverage” includes government-program coverage like Medicare, Medicaid-Medical Assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, veteran’s coverage and TRICARE.

 And it also includes employer-sponsored coverage or individually purchased coverage someone already has.

It does not include plans that have limited benefits, like vision or dental plans, disability policies, or worker’s compensation plans.

And beginning next year, high risk pool coverage and certain self-insured student plans will no longer qualify as “minimum essential coverage.”

The Monday deadline does not apply to Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare recipients, or participants in the Small Business Health Options Program.

For Minnesotans who do not have minimum essential coverage, open enrollment is the time to find a new health insurance plan.

For the first time, Minnesotans with pre-existing conditions who had been blackballed by insurance companies can now shop around for coverage that fits their financial and health needs.

More than 135,000 Minne-sotans have enrolled in coverage through MNsure, with another 1,000 or so people enrolling daily.

This is in addition to the customers of insurance agents and brokers across the state who have signed up for new coverage during open enrollment.

During open enrollment, companies cannot turn you down for coverage if you have a pre-existing condition.

Even if you don’t want to buy coverage through MNsure, you can buy a policy directly from the health insurance company during open enrollment.

Once open enrollment ends, it will be harder to get coverage. This is because health plans are not required to accept people applying for individual policies year-round.

You cannot wait until you get sick to buy coverage because you might not be able to find it when that happens.

It never hurts to find an agent or navigator to help you buy the right coverage, but first visit the Minnesota Commerce Department’s website:

Use the license lookup tool there to make sure the company or individual you want to work with is licensed to sell insurance in Minnesota.

If they aren’t, drop them and run.