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Going without a health plan is bad for your personal and financial health. Lack of health insurance increases an individual's risk of dying prematurely and being unable to pay for housing or food due to medical bills.

The federal health care overhaul aims to drastically reduce the number of Americans who don't have insurance. But as Minnesota officials gear up to promote the importance of health insurance, market research indicates even subsidized health plans will be a tough sell with some people.

You may wonder why states need to proactively sing the praises of health insurance. Wouldn't the uninsured just sign up? After all, the law provides free or low-cost coverage through government programs such as Medicaid and will include financial help through tax subsidies for many others.

Not necessarily, according to Maria Ruud, a nurse practitioner who treats uninsured patients at an Uptown Minneapolis clinic, the Neighborhood Involvement Program.

"A lot of our patients live in poverty and when you live in poverty, sometimes just getting through your day is a struggle," Ruud said.

Her patients often work several part-time jobs and live paycheck to paycheck, Ruud said. Health insurance, particularly if they don't get sick all that often, is not an immediate concern, but buying food and paying rent are.

Market research indicates many uninsured people are deeply skeptical of health plans, public and private. Some have been dumped out of government programs because of changes in their finances. Others have been denied coverage due to pre-existing health conditions. And some just found coverage too expensive or not worth the cost.

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Posted 11:24 AM

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