American Rescue Plan Update

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Update

Last week we announced the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The act includes important health care insurance provisions that will expand benefits available to Minnesota through MNsure.

One key change is a two-year enhancement to premium tax credits (PTCs) available to eligible individuals who qualify to purchase coverage through MNsure. The enhancements both increase the amount of PTCs available at all income levels and eliminate the 400 percent earnings of the federal poverty level (FPL).

What the act means for Minnesotans:

  • Those enrolled on the exchange and receiving tax credits will see increased savings.
  • Those enrolled on the exchange but not currently receiving tax credits might become eligible to receive them.
  • Those purchasing coverage directly from an insurance company rather than MNsure can cancel their policy and move to MNsure where they can receive tax credits.
  • Higher subsidies might make premiums more affordable for those who are uninsured.

Consumers must be enrolled in a plan through MNsure to qualify for the enhanced tax credits.

Kaiser Family Foundation has created a calculator to estimate eligibility for subsidies under the new American Rescue Plan Act. This is just an estimate but can help inform consumer decisions about enrolling in coverage.

MNsure will be sharing more details as soon as possible on an implementation timeline and additional information for assisters and consumers.

MNsure Changes

MNsure statement regarding federal changes to the Affordable Care Act

New policies set to improve affordability on Minnesota’s marketplace

ST. PAUL, Minn.—On Thursday, March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, which includes several key health care provisions to the Affordable Care Act that will expand benefits available to Minnesotans through MNsure. This includes an increase in the amount of tax credits MNsure enrollees receive to help them pay for their premiums and an expansion of tax credits to middle-income Minnesotans who previously fell outside income thresholds for financial help. This increase in benefits means Minnesotans who purchase health insurance through MNsure will be able to find a plan with premiums that cost no more than 8.5% of their household income.

“We welcome this great news, which will make health care coverage more affordable,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “Every Minnesotan who currently receives tax credits through MNsure will see additional savings, and thousands more Minnesotans who weren’t eligible to receive financial help before will now be able to access tax credits that can significantly reduce the cost of their health insurance.”

Key takeaways:

  • Most people already enrolled through MNsure will see savings.
  • People enrolled through MNsure without federal premium tax credits may now be eligible.
  • Those currently enrolled in plans outside of MNsure can enroll through MNsure.org and take advantage of benefits.
  • Uninsured Minnesotans should consider these new cost savings.

These expanded tax credits will not be advanceable until later this year. This means enrollees will not immediately see any additional savings on their monthly premiums but can reconcile the savings when they file their taxes next year. Current MNsure enrollees will be eligible for a full year of savings, retroactive to their first month of coverage in 2021. The enhanced savings will be available in advance for the entire 2022 coverage year.

Additional information, including implementation details and timing, and a tool to estimate potential savings, are forthcoming on MNsure.org. Interested Minnesotans should sign up for MNsure’s eNews emails for updates.MNsure is Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace where individuals and families can shop, compare and choose health insurance coverage that meets their needs. MNsure is the only place you can apply for financial help to lower the cost of your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Most Minnesotans who enroll through MNsure qualify for financial help

5 important facts about car insurance no one ever tells you

Understanding the basics of car insurance can be difficult enough, let alone understanding the lesser-known intricacies involved with the guidelines, policies and procedures of today’s insurance providers. Below, we’ve outlined some important, yet oftentimes obscure, insurance facts, so you’re “in-the-know” when you’re on-the-go.

Fact No. 1: Your credit impacts your insurance rates

Believe it or not, your credit may impact your insurance rates. Insurance providers have found that certain credit characteristics for an individual are useful to predict of how likely it is that the individual will have an insurance claim.

These characteristics are not the same ones that a bank uses to measure lending risk, but rather, insurers may use credit-based insurance scores in conjunction with other variables to assess the likelihood of claims submitted. These variables may include age, driving record, claims history, place of residence, the type of car and the average miles driven, among others.

As a general best practice, do what you can to improve your credit, be sure to monitor your credit report on a regular basis, and contact the credit bureau to clear up any errors.

Fact No. 2: Brand loyalty can cost you

If your mind-set about automobile insurance is “set it and forget it,” you might want to reconsider. Years ago, insurance companies evaluated a short list of factors when calculating your premiums. Today, that list has grown to a confusing labyrinth of criteria causing insurance rates to differ dramatically from provider to provider.

Instead of allowing your policy to automatically renew, comparison shop once a year to ensure you’re getting the best auto insurance rates. Some companies provide policies direct to consumers, while others sell policies through agents or brokers.

An easy place to start is by getting auto insurance quotes online, which could save you money. If you’re worried that lower rates mean less coverage or poor service, don’t be. Today, there are plenty of insurance companies that offer affordable premiums, well-rounded coverage and excellent customer service.

Fact No. 3: Stopping payment? You’ll pay in the long run

If you think switching car insurance companies is as easy as stopping payment, think again. Sure, your policy will cancel, but your existing insurance company could report you to the credit bureaus for nonpayment, damaging your credit score in the process. What’s more, your insurance history will reflect a cancellation which may cause a new provider to decline your application or charge you higher premiums in the future.

Instead, be sure to complete the necessary paperwork with your existing provider, such as a policy cancellation form, and time it right by starting your new policy on the date your old policy ends.

Fact No. 4: Your car insurance company can cancel or non-renew at any time

Your insurance company can cancel your policy at any time if you violate one or more of its guidelines during your policy period. Same goes for nonrenewal. Things such as failing to pay your premium on time, losing your driver’s license due to suspension or revocation, submitting too many at-fault claims, or misrepresenting your driving history or past insurance claims could all be reasons for cancellation or nonrenewal.

In either case, your carrier must notify you in writing within a time frame legally required by your state. When it comes to cancellation, your insurance company is required by law to state the reason, not so with nonrenewal. If you want a reason but aren’t provided with one, you must send your insurer a written request. If you believe you’ve been unfairly treated, you may have legal recourse through your state’s department of insurance.

And don’t forget about your “binding period,” the time when your insurance company is especially conscious of your risk level. The binding period usually occurs within 60 days following your auto insurance application. If your insurer finds a discrepancy on your application, on your driving record or with your credit, it can cancel your policy.

Fact No. 5: You could save money by paying your car insurance premium in full

You might be surprised to learn most car insurance companies charge an administrative fee to break up your premium payments into installments, such as paying every six months, every three months or every month. The more you divvy up your payments in installments, the more these “convenience fees” add up, and your once-cheap car insurance can now cost substantially more. There may also be charges for the method of installment payment you choose, such as automatic bill pay or pay-by-phone.

Be sure to ask your provider what its administrative fees are. If it makes financial sense and you can swing it, pay your premium up front and in full. Not only will you avoid the added expense, you won’t have to worry about missing a payment, or being late on payments, both of which could be grounds for cancellation. Other factors, such as the type of car you drive, can cost or save you money on car insurance as well. Safety features, driving habits and increasing your deductible can also have an effect on the bottom line.

This story originally ran on KBB.com.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-important-facts-about-car-insurance-no-one-ever-tells-you-2020-02-05

Preventing Ice Dams

As we head into a warm up – The Minnesota Department of Commerce has provided tips for dealing with Ice Dams. If you have any damage from ice buildup, call your Roundbank Insurance Agent to discuss your coverage.

Ice Dams: Helpful tips from the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Home Energy Guide

February 15, 2021 | ConsumersEnergyInsurance

Ice dams are an unpleasant part of winter for many Minnesota homeowners.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce offers tips for how to deal with ice dams now and how to prevent them in the future, which can also save you money on your heating bills.

One way to prevent ice dams is by removing snow from your roof. While you can try to do it yourself with a snow rake, it may be best to hire a professional snow remover, especially if it takes getting on the roof or using a ladder. Put safety first.

If you have an ice dam that is already causing water damage to your interior ceilings and walls, hire a professional ice dam removal service that uses steamers.

A few things you should not do:

  • Do not install heating cables. They will shorten the life of your roof and add to your energy costs.
  • Do not remove ice with chippers, chemicals or heat. These can damage shingles, gutters and other building components.
  • Do not add roof vents, including powered vents. They will not eliminate ice dams and often make the problem worse.

Preventing future ice dams

Ice dams are not caused by roofing, ventilation or gutter problems, as often believed. The real problem is a home that is leaking warm air.

Due to inadequate air sealing, heat from the home’s interior gets into the attic and melts the underside of the snow on the roof. The melted snow water flows down the roof surface until reaching a cold spot, such as the eaves or soffit, where it forms a frozen dam.

Over time, especially with a snow-covered roof in subfreezing temperatures, more ice can build up. Eventually, water starts seeping into the home.

Because the primary cause of ice dams is warm air leaking from the attic, the best prevention is to seal leaks with caulking or expanding spray foam, with attic insulation installed to a minimum of R-50 as space allows.

Energy assessment: Save energy and prevent ice dams

An advanced home energy assessment, or audit, is an important step to preventing ice dams and making your home more energy efficient. The assessment will use equipment such as an infrared camera to find attic air leaks and how to seal them.

A home energy audit can be arranged through your local utility, a nonprofit energy group or an HVAC professional.

Once problem areas are detected, get bids from at least two licensed contractors to have the work done.

For more information on preventing ice dams, sealing air leaks and adding insulation, check out the Commerce Department’s Home Energy Guide.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the Commerce Department’s Energy Information Center at energy.info@state.mn.us or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.

Printable PDF, tips for dealing with ice dams: https://mn.gov/commerce-stat/pdfs/ice-dams.pdf 

With You Every Day

Wherever you are in Minnesota, the Department of Commerce is with you every day. Whether you’re filling up on gas, purchasing a home, working to reduce energy consumption or rebuilding after a disaster—we are with you, no matter what.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce oversees more than 20 regulated industries, ensuring that Minnesota businesses are strong and Minnesota consumers are protected. Our mission is to protect the public interest, advocate for Minnesota consumers, ensure a strong, competitive and fair marketplace, strengthen the state’s economic future and serve as a trusted public resource for consumers and businesses. Learn more at mn.gov/commerce

Contact: Mo Schriner
Director of Communications
E: mo.schriner@state.mn.us
O: 651-539-1463Permalink: http://mn.gov/commerce/media/news/index.jsp?id=17-467621

Winter Water Damage Prevention

Colder weather means snow, ice, and frozen pipes, One thing to keep an eye on once temperatures reach the freezing point is your exposed pipes and water lines. As freezing water expands into ice, the pressure can compromise the integrity of the pipe and pipe fittings, which often lead to cracked or burst pipes resulting in costly property damage. Here are a few helpful tips for preventing this type of loss.

Prevent frozen pipes and water damage:

  • First, identify areas of concern where water pipes are being exposed to cold temperatures.
  • Keep exposed pipes warm by wrapping them with UL-endorsed heat tapes that have built-in thermostat. Follow manufacturer’s instructions upon installation and whether or not additional insulation can be placed over the heat tape.
  • Insulate exposed water pipes from cold moving air using foam rubber insulation designed for pipes. Keep the foam dry as you insulate and check that there are no gaps between the pipe and the insulation. Secure corners of pipes with duct tape to cover any gaps. Insulation alone won’t prevent freezing, but will slow down the transfer rate of heat to cold.
  • Utilize UL-endorsed heat tapes for drain lines that go to cold air space. Don’t overlook water lines in cold basements, attics, or crawl spaces.
  • When there is a loss of power on cold days, open the tap to allow the water to run at a slow and constant drip. First, start a slow drip on the hot side of the faucet, then a faster drip on the cold side faucet.
  • Fill any drafty gaps or cracks near water pipes with caulk to prevent cold air from coming inside.
  • Do not turn off the heat or open windows during cold days; maintain a room temperature of 55 degrees or higher.

This Insurance Awareness, Helpful Hints and Tips Publication is brought to you by: North Star Mutual Insurance Company.

MNsure Special Enrollment Period

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ST. PAUL, Minn..—Beginning Tuesday, February 16, MNsure will open a three-month special enrollment period to help any Minnesotan not currently enrolled through MNsure to secure health insurance coverage. This announcement follows the nationwide special enrollment period established by President Biden for those states who use healthcare.gov, the federally run health insurance marketplace. MNsure’s special enrollment period will run until Monday, May 17.

“If you are uninsured, or have coverage outside of MNsure, you can come to MNsure.org between February 16 and May 17 to enroll in a health insurance plan. COVID-19 is still with us, so having access to comprehensive health care coverage is critical at this time,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “Not sure where to start? We have a statewide network of assisters who can help walk you through the process – just click on Find Free Help on our homepage.”

MNsure ran a similar special enrollment period for uninsured Minnesotans in March 2020 just after the start of the pandemic and enrolled nearly 10,000 Minnesotans into private health insurance coverage. In total, MNsure helped more than 24,500 Minnesotans secure health insurance coverage through a special enrollment period from the start of the pandemic through the end of 2020. Additionally, MNsure’s annual open enrollment period, which ended on December 22, 2020, saw an increased number of enrollments, nearly 20% of which were new to the marketplace.

This upcoming special enrollment period is another opportunity for uninsured Minnesotans, or those currently enrolled outside of MNsure, to sign up for comprehensive health care coverage. Eligible Minnesotans can also take advantage of cost-saving benefits available only through MNsure. Those who enroll during this time will have coverage that begins on the first day of the month following their sign-up date. For example, Minnesotans who sign-up for coverage in February will have a March 1 start date. Those who sign up in March will have coverage starting on April 1, and so on.

Please note: Minnesotans currently enrolled in health insurance coverage outside of MNsure should confirm their coverage options through MNsure before making changes to their current coverage.

Getting started

  • Compare plans side by side using MNsure’s plan comparison tool. Get estimates on premium costs, deductibles and more. Minnesotans can also use the tool to see if they qualify for financial help. Nearly half of current MNsure enrollees are receiving tax credits to lower the cost of their premiums, averaging almost $5,000 a year.
  • Set up a free appointment with a MNsure-certified assister. Virtual meeting options are available.

Year-round enrollment opportunities

In addition to this three-month special enrollment period, Minnesotans who experience a qualifying life event such as a loss of employer health insuranceloss of employer COBRA premium subsidy or decrease in income, may be eligible for a special enrollment period. These enrollment opportunities are available year-round to those who qualify. Minnesotans who qualify for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare or are a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe can enroll any time of year. For Minnesotans new to MNsure, please find additional resources below:

MNsure is Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace where individuals and families can shop, compare and choose health insurance coverage that meets their needs. MNsure is the only place you can apply for financial help to lower the cost of your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Most Minnesotans who enroll through MNsure qualify for financial help.

Source: https://www.mnsure.org/news-room/news/

Updated Safety Precautions

In order to protect customers and employees, we are asking you to please put on a mask before entering our Roundbank Insurance Agency locations. We are adding this practice to our list of ways that we are keeping our customers and employees safe. Having a safe environment to conduct your business needs is paramount to our core values. We value the wellness of the communities that we serve and will follow the direction of state and local health officials. Thank you for your understanding!

What are we doing to keep our customers and our staff safe?

  • Masks.  We are asking all employees and customers to wear a mask while visiting our locations. If you do not have a mask and would like one during your visit, we are happy to provide one for you.
  • Limit number in each location. We are limiting the number of customers inside at one time.  Customers are asked to remain at the entrance until greeted by a staff member to enter.
  • Social distancing. We have markers on the lobby floor to indicate a safe social distance from other customers.
  • Plexiglass shields. We have installed plexiglass shields at our desks as an extra layer of protection in preventing transmission of the virus.
  • Hand sanitizer. There are hand sanitizers placed throughout our common areas.
  • Please bring a pen or use and keep one of our pens.  If you do not have a pen, we will provide a clean pen for you to use and keep.
  • Cleaning our locations. We have increased our cleaning efforts and continue to disinfect high-touch surfaces throughout the day (handles, counters, keypads, etc.).
  • Coffee/Water Stations. In effort to minimize contamination, we are temporarily removing our coffee and water stations in the lobbies.
  • Employee social distancing. Employees will remain socially distant and internal employee meetings will continue to be conducted virtually to avoid branch-to-branch visits and minimize direct contact.  It is our intent to keep our branches free from unnecessary visits that could spread the virus.

Drive-up at all locations and Walk-up in Waseca will continue to be available as it always has for your convenience and an alternative to entering our locations. Please call or email us with any questions or concerns. We will work hard to accommodate your needs while doing our part to protect our communities.