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MNsure expects lots of window shoppers this week, not many buyers

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Minnesota's health insurance exchange is planning for lots of opening-day traffic when MNsure opens its website to shoppers looking for coverage Tuesday.

But executive director April Todd-Malmov tells the Associated Press that in the early going most of the visitors are likely to be curious window shoppers, with purchases of health plans through the Paul Bunyan-promoted site likely to ramp up slowly.

Unless, of course, the whole system gets put on hold. On Capitol Hill House Republicans have voted to postpone key parts of the Affordable Care Act for a year. That move lacks support from the Senate and President Obama, though. If neither side budges, the standoff may lead to a partial shutdown of the federal government this week.

At MNsure preparations for Tuesday's rollout have included lots of security training. The agency has been on the defensive lately, working to reassure lawmakers last week, after a security breach resulted in more than 1,000 names and social security numbers being mistakenly emailed to an insurance agent.

A federal report issued last week found that on average MNsure will offer lower premiums than any other state's insurance exchange. Premiums will vary quite a bit, though, depending on the type of plan and the buyer's age, location, and tobacco use.

Why are premiums lower here than in other states? MPR took a crack at that question but there seems to be no simple answer, with a combination of factors contributing.

Here's the MNsure website, which provides more on how the system works. Over the next few years officials expect about 1.3 million people -- 20 percent of all Minnesotans -- will purchase health coverage through MNsure.

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