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Minnesota not clear about Obamacare changes impact

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota officials are trying to determine whether President Barack Obama’s Thursday health care changes will affect the state.

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“The Minnesota Department of Commerce is closely working with state and federal officials on the president's announcement and executive order, and how it will affect the state of Minnesota,” Communications Director Anne O'Connor of the state Commerce Department said as Obama announced his plans.

The president announced that he will let insurance companies renew for one year the health plans for consumers whose policies would be otherwise ended.

Thousands of Minnesotans’ insurance companies have told them that their policies will change before Jan. 1. Unlike in other states, Minnesota law does not allow outright policy cancellations.

Part of the reason for the change is that the old policies may not meet minimum requirements established by a new federal health care law popularly known as Obamacare.

Obama made the change because a new federal Website designed to allow Americans to buy health insurance policies has not worked well.

“We fumbled the rollout on this health care law...” Obama said. “That’s on me.”

Senior White House officials said it will be up to insurance commissioners in individual states to allow the Obamacare fix to go ahead, and will be up to insurance companies to renew plans that have already been canceled.

Insurance companies must tell policy holders that their plans do not meet the new minimum standards and must inform them about other options on the new marketplaces, including the availability of subsidies to help them pay their insurance costs, the officials said.

The fix only applies to those who have lost their insurance coverage. Insurance companies may not offer such plans to other Americans because it would undermine the Affordable Care Act, the officials said.

Minnesota has its own version of the Web-based insurance-purchase Website, known as MNsure. While MNsure faced some technical issues when it launched Oct. 1, the federal site fared far worse.

It was not clear immediately whether Minnesotans who bought new insurance through MNsure because their policies were canceled can opt to return to the old policies. It also was not clear how many people would keep their old policies instead of opting for a MNsure-provided policy.

Policies sold on MNsure, and the federal site used by states surrounding Minnesota and most other states, are offered by traditional insurance companies, and not government. The new sites provide federal subsidies to lower insurance costs for many poor and even some middle-class families.

By Don Davis, Forum News Service

Reuters news service contributed to this report.

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