Minnesotans have several affordable health coverage options. While most people obtain coverage through an employer, you can purchase a policy from an insurance company, enroll in MinnesotaCare (Medicaid), or sign up for Medicare.

This guide covers all of your affordable health insurance options in greater detail.

What to know about insurance in Minnesota

  • Marketplace plans: In Minnesota, you can buy affordable health insurance from private insurers if you’re self-employed, your employer doesn’t offer group coverage, your employer’s plan doesn’t meet your needs, or if the plan doesn’t cover your spouse or dependents.
  • Open enrollment: The open enrollment period for Minnesota’s health care marketplace is from November 1 until January 15 each year.
  • Special enrollment: If you have moved, changed jobs, gotten married, or had a child, this qualifies you for a special enrollment period. You have 60 days from the time of the event to sign up for a new plan or make changes to your current plan.
  • MNsure: Minnesota has a state health insurance exchange, so if you’re looking to take advantage of the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, you need to visit MNsure.org. If you’re not interested in the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, you can purchase directly from an insurance company.
  • Coverage types: In Minnesota, just under 58% of residents are insured through an employer, while 5% have individual insurance plans. About 17% of residents have coverage through MinnesotaCare, and another 14.7% have Medicare. About 4.8% of Minnesotans are uninsured.

How do I enroll in Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace?

Minnesota has a state-wide health care marketplace. Signing up for coverage requires you to create an account on MNsure.org. Following the instructions provided through the website, enter your contact information, create your security questions and choose a password that you can remember.

Your application requires the birth date, full name, and Social Security number for each person you want to insure. Make sure you have this information available ahead of time. MNsure.org automatically determines if you qualify for financial aid, the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, and gives you the option to sign up for MinnesotaCare if you are eligible.

There are a few questions that you need to answer on your application:

  • Are you married?
  • How many people did you claim as dependents on your last tax return?
  • What is your household income?
  • Would you like to apply for financial aid?

Once you’ve completed your application, you can shop for insurance. The exchange gives you information about each plan, such as your monthly premium, deductible, copayments for medical services, and plan type. Then, when you find the right plan, all you need to do is complete your enrollment.

The following insurance companies offer affordable health insurance coverage in Minnesota:

  • Blue Plus
  • Group Health
  • Medica
  • PreferredOne
  • Quartz
  • UCare

How do I enroll in Minnesota individual and family insurance?

There’s no difference when it comes to enrolling for individual coverage versus family coverage. However, before you search for a policy, you’ll need to review your needs, preferences, and budget. Consider what type of plan would suit your needs most, the maximum deductible you can afford to pay, and how much you can pay per month in premiums.

Insurance for individuals in Minnesota 

You’ll have the most health insurance flexibility when you’re just shopping for yourself. If you’re a young and healthy individual, you might not need comprehensive coverage and a low deductible. Just remember that you need to meet your annual deductible before you can rely on your insurance coverage to reduce any medical expenses you may incur.

There are three different types of plans that you can choose from. The type that is best for you depends on how flexible you are and what you need most in a plan.

  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans are the most restrictive plans but have the lowest monthly premiums. However, you’re required only to see doctors and receive care from providers in the plan’s network. Additionally, you’ll need a referral anytime you wish to see a specialist.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans allow you to see whatever doctor you want to, but at the cost of higher monthly premiums.
  • Point-of-Service (POS) plans are a balance between HMO and PPO plans in that they provide you with a network of providers to receive care from but allow you to see out-of-network doctors if you’re willing to pay a higher copayment. You’re still required to get a referral to see a specialist if you’re looking to remain in-network.

Insurance for families in Minnesota 

Shopping for family coverage requires you to be more mindful of the needs of every person you plan to include under your policy. You want to balance the cost of your policy with the benefits you receive so that you can reduce the total cost of your family’s health care. For example, you might not need ongoing medical treatment for a chronic condition. However, your spouse or child might need access to a greater level of care than you do.

You might save more money with lower coinsurance requirements than you would pay for a more expensive policy. You should also consider how high of a deductible you can afford each year. Since you need to meet your deductible before an insurance company covers your expenses, you want a deductible that isn’t too taxing on your finances.

The type of plan is an important consideration as well. HMO plans are often much cheaper, so if you review the network and feel that you have access to all of the specialists your family needs in the network, you could save some money. Moreover, try to ensure that the network gives you access to a wide range of specialists just in case you wind up needing to see a type of doctor you didn’t originally anticipate.

How much does health insurance cost in Minnesota?

The exchange divides health insurance into four categories based on the type of coverage you receive and how expensive the policies are: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Factors that determine a plan’s tier include your annual deductible, monthly premium, and copayment requirements. So before you try to enroll in the cheapest plan available, you should consider what you’re getting in return for your premiums and the total cost of your health care.

Average premiums in Minnesota 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Most affordable Bronze plan $315 $271 $256 $251 $290
Most affordable Silver plan $370 $309 $294 $295 $318
Most affordable Gold plan $461 $364 $355 $362 $384

  • Bronze plans are cheap health insurance policies, but have the highest deductibles and copayment requirements. A bronze plan requires you to pay 40% of the cost of medical care whenever you visit a doctor or hospital. These plans can help you save money if you’re young and healthy and want an insurance plan that covers you in case of an unexpected injury or illness. The cheapest Bronze plan in 2022 costs $290 per month.
  • Silver plans are a little more expensive, but offer lower deductibles than bronze plans. Your copayment is 30%. If you qualify for financial assistance, you might be able to enroll in a Silver plan for less money per month than a Bronze plan. The most affordable Silver plan for Minnesotans in 2022 costs $318.
  • Gold and Platinum plans cost the most money per month, but provide the most coverage in return. They have the lowest annual deductibles, and a Gold plan has a 20% copayment requirement. Platinum plans only require a 10% copayment for your medical services. Gold and Platinum plans are primarily for those suffering from chronic medical conditions who need regular, ongoing care or state-of-the-art therapies. The least expensive Gold plan in 2022 costs $384 per month.

Can you get cheap health insurance in Minnesota?

Minnesota offers two coverage options for individuals and families who can’t afford adequate insurance coverage: MinnesotaCare (Medicaid) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Minnesota manages MinnesotaCare with assistance from the federal government, while the CHIP program helps families cover their children when they don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid in Minnesota 

MinnesotaCare is offered to residents whose income is considered low or very low. In addition to remaining under the income threshold for your household size, you must be:

  • Over the age of 65
  • Disabled
  • Caring for someone with a disability
  • Responsible for a minor

MinnesotaCare provides coverage for routine medical appointments, diagnostic tests, approved outpatient procedures, and hospital stays.

To be able to apply for MinnesotaCare, your income must remain below the required threshold. This threshold is based on your household size and your total household income. For example, an individual may not make more than $17,131 per year to qualify. In comparison, a family of four still qualifies as long as their household income is less than $35,245 per year.

The majority of residents in need of MinnesotaCare can apply for it using MNsure.org. However, if you’re over the age of 65 or have a permanent physical disability, you may be required to apply for MinnesotaCare by visiting the Department of Human Services portal instead.

Minnesota CHIP

The Minnesota CHIP program provides health care to children across the state whose families are unable to place them on family plans or afford an individual policy. CHIP covers the cost of routine doctor visits, medications, mental health services, developmental therapy, dental care, eye care, immunizations, and emergency care. It also provides coverage for prenatal care for pregnant women. You can check your eligibility for the program through the state insurance exchange.

What are Minnesota’s Medicare options for seniors and people with disabilities?

Minnesotans have a number of options to choose from when it comes to Medicare.

  • Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Original Medicare Part A covers inpatient care, such as for hospital stays, nursing home care, home health care, and hospice care. Medicare Part B coverage includes outpatient procedures, medical equipment, emergency transportation, routine examinations, diagnostic tests, and preventive care. Medicare plans require an annual deductible and coinsurance requirement, but you can purchase a Medicare Supplement policy to help cover these out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies. Although plans must offer at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans often cover extra services. Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover everything provided under Medicare Parts A and B but allow you to add additional coverage for dental, vision, and prescription medications.

If you choose Original Medicare, you can also purchase supplemental plans to extend your coverage. Medicare Part D covers prescription medications, while Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) covers deductibles, copays, and other out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Eligibility

You’re eligible for Medicare if you’re a United States citizen or a permanent resident over the age of 65 or have a qualifying disability.

Enrollment

If you start receiving your Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at least four months before you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare. Otherwise, you must fill out an application online or contact your local Social Security office. You can enroll in Medicare during the following periods:

  • Initial enrollment: Your initial enrollment period starts three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after your 65th birthday. If you’ve never had Medicare, you can enroll during this period. If you started receiving Medicare when you were younger, you can also make changes to your plan.
  • General enrollment: Choose this enrollment period if you missed your initial enrollment period. The Medicare general enrollment period is January 1 to March 31. You can choose Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or Part D.
  • Medicare Advantage open enrollment: You can make changes to your Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, from January 1 to March 31.
  • Open enrollment: You can join, switch plans, or drop your coverage from October 15 to December 7 each year.
  • Special enrollment periods: You may qualify for a special enrollment period if you lose your coverage or have changes to your eligibility outside the regular enrollment periods.

Medicare resources 

If you need help finding the right Medicare Advantage plan to suit your needs or have general questions about Medicare, you can access additional resources through the Minnesota State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Are there short-term health insurance plan options in Minnesota?

Minnesota has some of the strictest rules in the nation regarding short-term insurance. Insurance companies may not provide temporary policies for longer than 185 days in Minnesota. You’re also not allowed to renew a policy unless you’re in the hospital when it expires. If this is the case, you’re only allowed to renew the policy until the end of your hospital stay. You can purchase a policy with a different insurer but you can’t be covered by short-term plans for more than 365 days out of every 555 days.

Short-term policies don’t come with the same consumer protections as those offered on the healthcare marketplace. Insurance companies may refuse to cover preexisting conditions, increase your rates based on your medical history, or deny coverage. If you’re pregnant, your prenatal care might not be covered by a temporary policy.

Minnesota Insurance FAQs

Does Minnesota require health insurance?

The state doesn’t require Minnesotans to purchase health insurance. While the Affordable Care Act does include a federal mandate that all United States citizens have health coverage, Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not obtaining insurance in 2019.

Do I have to use the Health Insurance Marketplace in Minnesota?

You’re not required to use the state marketplace and are free to buy an individual policy. But, if you want to take advantage of the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, the only way to do so is to enroll through the marketplace.

What types of alternative health insurance plans (like cost-sharing plans) are available in Minnesota?

The most popular form of cost-sharing plans are faith-based plans. In a faith-based plan, members share health care costs with other members. You don’t need to be a member of a particular denomination (or even religious), to participate in a plan. While these plans can be relatively low-cost, most faith-based plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions, mental health care, or pregnancy. Since the federal government and Minnesota don’t consider them health care plans, these plans aren’t required to meet Affordable Care Act standards. If you would like to join a faith-based plan, make sure you ask lots of questions before enrolling.

What type of marketplace does Minnesota have?

Minnesota uses its own exchange, and you can enroll for coverage by visiting MNsure.org. Minnesota is one of 14 states in the country that uses its own exchange instead of the federal healthcare marketplace.

Do I need health insurance if I have HSA/FSA?

Health savings accounts and flexible savings accounts are excellent supplements for insurance coverage. Still, they aren’t adequate to replace health coverage entirely. Health insurance dramatically reduces the cost of your care. But, if you’re required to pay for expensive medical treatments, your coinsurance requirement may still be costly. An HSA or FSA can help you plan for these expenses.

Do I need short-term disability coverage in Minnesota if I have health insurance?

Short-term disability coverage helps when you cannot return to work for a short period because of a medical concern. It pays for things like your regular bills, food, and a rent or mortgage payment. Health insurance pays for your actual medical care. Hence, a short-term disability plan works as a supplemental plan rather than an insurance replacement.

Do I need long-term disability coverage in Minnesota if I have health insurance?

Long-term disability plans are similar in scope to short-term disability plans. They help you with your out-of-pocket expenses if you’re permanently disabled and unable to work due to your injuries or medical conditions. Having health insurance protects you from large medical bills when you require ongoing care and state-of-the-art treatments.

What does CHIP cover?

The CHIP program covers children and pregnant women for preventative care, emergency room visits, prescription medications, dental care, vision, and other medically necessary procedures and therapies. Pregnant women also receive coverage for prenatal care throughout their pregnancies.

author-img
Insurance and health care consultant

Tammy Burns is an experienced health insurance advisor. She earned her nursing degree in 1990 from Jacksonville State University, obtained her insurance billing and coding certification in 1995, and holds a health and life insurance license in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Burns is Affordable Care Act (ACA)-certified for health insurance and other ancillary, life, and annuity products. She maintains an active nursing license and practices private-duty nursing.

Burns’ background as a nurse, insurance biller and coder, and insurance consultant includes infectious disease, oncology, gynecology, phlebotomy, post operative, family medicine, geriatrics, home health, hospice, human resources, management, billing, coding, claims, fixed annuities, group and individual health and life products, and Medicare. She’s always been driven by a desire to help people, spending more than 25 years as a practicing nurse in hospitals, private doctors’ offices, home health, and hospice. As a nurse, Burns supported patients filing insurance claims with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies as well as responding to billing questions from confused patients.

Seeing firsthand how unsuspecting patients are frequently confused by an overly complex system they don’t understand led Burns to become an insurance agent and health care consultant, now helping people understand the medical system. Since becoming an insurance agent in 2013, she has worked with some of the largest and most reputable insurance carriers and agencies in the nation, and she has built a large and loyal clientele by way of her commitment to transparency and personalized service.

Sources