Clinics prepare for influx of newly covered patients

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Minnesotans who have fresh access to health insurance are expected to start showing up seeking medical treatment, and community health centers are hiring preparing for the influx of newly covered patients.

MPR News reports that those community clinics, which serve a low income population, anticipate a 12 to 15 percent rise in the number of patients who will seek care this year. United Family Medicine in St. Paul expects their patient load to jump from 19,000 to 23,000. The clinic already hired one physician and plans to add another provider such as a nurse practitioner to handle the expanded caseload.

The Affordable Care Act, which began officially on Jan. 1, expands Medicaid and provides some low-income people with premium discounts through the state's new online insurance marketplace, MNsure. FOX 9 notes that more than 50,000 Minnesotans signed up for health insurance by the Dec. 31 deadline and have until Jan. 10 to pay their first month's premium. The new policies offer a minimum level of essential benefits, from emergency room treatment to maternity care.

The Associated Press reports that the newly insured, some of whom may have previously been denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition, can book appointments and fill prescriptions. Drug store chains such as CVS and Walgreens announced they will provide temporary supplies of medications without insisting on up-front payment to customers as the new system rolls out.

Nationally, 2.1 million enrolled through federal and state-run insurance exchanges and millions more enrolled in Medicaid after the controversial law allowed states to expand the health insurance program for the poor.

The next test will be using the coverage, as hospitals, doctors and pharmacies get ready to bill the new plans.

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