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MNsure needs younger people to enroll

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MNsure needs more young people, according to the Star Tribune.

Insurance companies on the exchange set rates by figuring the median age of participants is about 40. But the current median age of MNsure enrollees is 50. Half the enrollees who bought private insurance on the exchange through November were between 51 and 64. 

“That’s kind of scary,” said Scott Keefer, vice president of policy and legislative affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Officials have a few explanations for the slow pace of enrollment among young people. They may be waiting until the April deadline. They may be "young invincibles," people who think they won't need health care and can ignore the mandate. Or they may be turned off by the cumbersome sign-up process.

“If you’re under 30, you have no tolerance for a poor technological experience,” Keefer said. “That’s what I worry about most … that those young people might not come back.”

Minnesota is not alone in its proportion of young enrollees. Nine other states that have their own exchanges and have published data show a similar ratio.

MNsure's marketing has targeted young people. Officials say the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox campaign tested well with them.

"A lot of it is about accidents and things like that that can hit anybody at any age," said Larry Bussey, director of communications for Medica.

MNsure announced Friday it would add eight days to the sign-up period for coverage that begins Jan. 1. People now have until the end of the year.

MPR News reported that bugs have been traced to software that was not tested before officials bought it.

The problems also affect MinnesotaCare, a state subsidized program for the working poor.

The Affordable Care Act mandates an income verification system be in place by Jan. 1 so that tax subsidies go only to people who need them.

That's where the faulty software is causing a bottleneck.

"These problems have caused frustrated and confused consumers to contact our call center in an effort to resolve their problems," said MNsure spokesman John Schadl. "That has caused significant increases in the wait times at our call centers."

The software maker, IBM Curam, told MPR News it was "enhancing the performance [of MNsure] as quickly as possible."

MNsure's poor rollout was also covered in The New York Times last week. When director April Todd-Malmlov resigned Monday, Minnesota became the fourth state to undergo a leadership change during the tough ACA implementation period.

“It’s really the concrete political danger of a faulty state exchange that is compelling state officials to hold the exchanges accountable in a way that so far has not happened in Washington,” said Lawrence Jacobs, a political analyst at the University of Minnesota.

Fourteen states run their own health care exchanges; the remaining 36 rely on the federal exchange.

Defenders of MNsure say a majority of Minnesotans are now successfully finding plans that rank among the lowest premiums in the country.

According to new data released Wednesday, more than 47,000 Minnesotans have completed applications for insurance coverage. Almost 39,000 have chosen a plan, of which about 12,000 are for private insurance.

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