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Bemidji library to aid in MNsure signup

BEMIDJI — The Bemidji Public Library is planning on helping local citizens sign up for the new MNsure health insurance exchange, Branch Manager Paul Ericsson said Tuesday. The library will partner with Health Access MN Coalition, one of the 30 recipients of outreach/infrastructure grants from the MNsure program. Although the library may provide public computers for web signup and a space for coalition meetings, Health Access will be the entity providing person-to-person assistance in enrollment and not library staff, Ericsson said. He added the specific nature of the partnership between the library and Health Access is still being worked out and it’s unlikely signup help at the library would be up and running for the Tuesday start date for MNSure enrollment. Ericsson said the library’s choice to assist with implementation of the exchange should not be interpreted as a political stance in support of MNsure or the federal Affordable Care Act in general. "I would hope people would see it for what it is," Ericsson said. "We’re not taking a stand one way or another on the appropriateness, on the political aspects of this. We’re simply dealing with the reality… that the state will be offering this. People will be looking, people…who don’t have computers at home, people (who) due to their literacy and other challenges in their life are going to need assistance, and we’re simply looking to help people in our community." John Freeman is lead navigator for the Health Access MN Coalition. A former Bemidji resident and attorney for Anishinabe Legal Services, he said one of the coalition’s specific goals in helping underserved populations is to help make access to MNsure easier for American Indians. "We’re…cognizant that Bemidji sits between the three largest reservations in Minnesota, so we also want to do our best to serve the native population, and we think Bemidji is a really well-suited area to try to undertake that," he said.