I’d like to remind you that the deadline for signing up for health insurance through MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, is right around the corner. According to federal law, failing to do so puts you at risk of a fine.
As of Friday,more than 152,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage through MNsure, exceeding its open enrollment goal. MNsure’s original goal of enrolling 135,000 Minnesotans during the 2014 open enrollment period was established at the MNsure Board of Directors meeting on October 16, 2013.
To date, MNsure has enrolled 36,176 in a Qualified Health Plan, 27,512 in MinnesotaCare and 73,086 in Medical Assistance.
All plans cover preventive care, doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, ER services, maternity care and more. Minnesotans with existing conditions cannot be denied, and there are no lifetime limits on coverage. Financial assistance is available to help pay monthly insurance premiums. A single individual earning up to $45,960 a year or a family of four earning up to $94,200 a year could qualify.
Most of the issues with the rollout of MNsure have been addressed. The average phone hold time is less than 60 seconds. There are nearly 170 agents to take your calls. There are 50 staff members who can help you manually enroll in MNsure.
Minnesota was wise to create its own exchange rather than accept the federal health exchange. Our rates are the lowest in the country. MNsure bronze, silver and gold plans all cost less than the average bronze – the least expensive – plan in other states.
Residents of Wisconsin and other states that chose to use the federal exchange are experiencing higher costs. Late in October, a report found that insurance premiums in the Wisconsin insurance marketplace averaged up to 99 percent higher than premiums in Minnesota. That’s a difference of $1,800 a year!
As the deadline nears, MNsure reports that it is expecting an increased number of Minnesotans to use MNsure.org and to call the MNsure Contact Center. This could result in longer than usual wait times for service. Don’t panic: Wait times may increase, but there are still people on the other end working to help you get covered.
The MNsure Contact Center (1-855-366-7873) will remain open every day now through the end of open enrollment. Hours are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Contact Center also will be open until midnight on Monday, March 31.
To avoid long hold times, the MNsure Contact Center suggests calling on the weekend or right away in the morning.
Users experiencing online issues or extended Contact Center wait times can fill out the MNsure Enrollment Attempt Form before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 31, and will be contacted at a later date to complete enrollment. The form can be found at MNsure.org. Users are urged not to call the Contact Center to confirm receipt of the MNsure Enrollment Attempt Form.
Minnesotans with questions about Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare should call the Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) Member Help Desk at 651-431-2670 or 800-657-3739. The MHCP Member Help Desk will be open on Saturday, March 29, from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and on Monday, March 31, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Sign up at www.mnsure.org.
Tax bill signed, sealed and delivered
Earlier this month, the Legislature passed and sent to the governor a bill providing $508 million in middle-class tax cuts for more than one million Minnesotans. The governor signed the bill Friday night.
Last session, the House included federal tax conformity for tax year 2013 and beyond, but it did not end up in the final budget signed into law. More than one million middle-class Minnesotans will see $225 million in tax cuts due to federal conformity and the increase in the state’s Working Family Credit. The tax cuts through federal conformity include:
· Tax Cuts for Married Couples: More than 650,000 middle-class married families will see $111 million in tax cuts with the elimination of the “marriage penalty.”
· Tax Cuts for Working Families: 330,000 moderate income working families will see $66 million in tax cuts.
· Tax Cuts for Day Care: More than 26,000 families who qualify for child care tax credits to pay for child care will see an average increase in their tax credit of $74 per year.
· Tax Cut for New Homeowners: 80,000 new homeowners paying down mortgage interest will see an average tax cut of $60.
· Tax Cuts for Students: 125,000 taxpayers paying down student loans will see a $50 tax cut on average.
· Tax relief for families that adopt: $400,000 in tax cuts for families that received employer provided adoption assistance.
· Tax Cuts for Small Employers: Small businesses will be able to offer their employees tax-free tuition and adoption assistance.
(Source: Non-partisan House Research)
The bill increases the Working Family Credit above and beyond federal conformity, providing a total of $66.2 million in tax cuts to 331,000 claimants earning less than $49,103. The average family will see a $146 tax cut through this expansion of the Working Family Credit.
The final bill also repeals three business-to-business taxes on warehousing and storage services, commercial equipment repair (including farm machinery) and telecommunications equipment.
Federal and state income tax returns must be filed by April 15, 2014, unless an extension is filed with the IRS. You may want to wait to file until April 3, when the Revenue Department issues updated forms, instructions and more detailed guidelines.
When you do finally do file, the Minnesota Department of Revenue wants you to remember these important tips when filling out your forms:
· Enter your name and any dependents names as they appear on Social Security cards. Incorrect names or Social Security numbers can result in refund delays.
· Double-check bank routing and account numbers used on tax forms. Incorrect account numbers can delay your refund.
· Complete each form and carry totals to the correct lines. If you electronically file, the calculations are done for you.
· If you move after filing, contact the Department of Revenue right away. That way, anything sent to you will reach you, such as refund checks or requests for more information. You should do this even when requesting direct deposit.
· You should file the return by the April 15, 2014, due date, even if you owe more than you can pay. You can use the state’s new online system to set up multiple payments with different due dates. Pay as much as you can by the due date, and continue to make payments until you receive a bill from the state. When you receive the bill, contact the state and set up a payment plan for the remaining balance.
· Do you qualify for free electronic filing? To see if you qualify to electronically file your income tax return for free, click here. Be sure to access the software products from the Department of Revenue website to file for free.
The department encourages taxpayers to choose Direct Deposit, allowing for a safer and faster refund.
All my best,