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Filling out paperwork is no one's idea of a good time. But a delay in crossing that off your to-do list could put your health insurance at risk if you're one of the nearly 1.5 million Minnesotans whose medical care is covered through the state's public health programs.

Regular eligibility checks are important to ensure that enrollees continue to meet financial and other criteria for taxpayer-funded programs serving low-income people. In Minnesota, that's mainly Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.

Those checks were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. The continuous enrollment policy in place since 2020 ensured access to care during the public health emergency, which in turn helped contain the virus. But it also may have had a downside: decreased familiarity with the requirements to stay enrolled in these programs.

The end of that emergency period — declared last May by federal officials — understandably led to the resumption of eligibility checks across the nation. As the number of Minnesotans enrolled in these programs indicates, this is a massive undertaking, one that will continue here through May 31, with the cycle of regular renewals continuing after that.

This is still a paper-driven process in Minnesota. Renewal packets arrive by regular mail. It's important to open them and follow up promptly as needed. "Your renewal paperwork will let you know if your coverage has been automatically renewed or if you need to complete a renewal form," according to the state Department of Human Services (DHS).

Not returning a renewal form when requested could mean coverage loss even if you're still eligible for the programs. Data from KFF, a respected health care nonprofit, underscores how vital it is to act.

"Across all states with available data, 70% of all people disenrolled had their coverage terminated for procedural reasons," KFF reported this month. Procedural reasons means people "did not complete the renewal process and can occur when the state has outdated contact information or because the enrollee does not understand or otherwise does not complete renewal packets within a specific timeframe."

While improvements to this complicated process led Minnesota to restore coverage last fall for some enrollees who lost it, those who depend on this program still need to take responsibility.

The renewal forms are not mailed out all at once in Minnesota. Instead, the packets' arrival is timed to the month when the enrollee originally signed up for the program. For those who don't remember their enrollment date, DHS has a helpful online tool to look it up:

The mailing also has a distinctive look to help it stand out. The envelopes have an attention-grabbing blue circle on them. That's why DHS advises to "look for the circle in blue when it's time to renew."

Free help is also fortunately available for those with questions. The assistance is available through MNsure-certified navigators, who specialize in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. To find one near you, go to

DHS also provided an important reminder this week: Medical Assistance enrollees who missed their renewal deadline can still turn in forms and possibly receive retroactive coverage if they remain eligible. In addition, it's important to note that Minnesotans are eligible to apply for Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare at any time during the year. That's different from private health insurance, where's there's typically a window of time at the end of the year to sign up for coverage kicking in after New Year's Day.

Hospital costs and clinic bills can add up fast. The inconvenience of returning paperwork is a small price to pay to ensure you and your loved ones continue to have coverage for care both routine and serious.