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Lawmakers raise concerns on MNsure budget future

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Minnesota lawmakers warned leaders of MNsure that they will have to figure out how to handle a possible budget shortfall starting in 2015.

The state Legislature's MNsure oversight committee met Wednesday and lawmakers had questions about the health exchange's budget situation.

The Associated Press reports MNsure leaders have not been able to answer how much more the health exchange is expected to cost or how it will be paid for, but stressed to lawmakers they are working on coming up with answers.

KARE 11 health exchange executives told lawmakers they have made progress on fixing problems with the website and call center.

"By adding significant capacity to our call center staffing, MNsure is taking a crucial step to improve customer service and ensure that Minnesotans who want coverage beginning March 1 get the help they need to meet the upcoming Feb. 15 deadline," MNsure's acting CEO Scott Leitz told KARE.

MNsure leaders told lawmakers Wednesday that 98 percent of people are now able to navigate the website with only a 4 to 5 percent error rate, according to FOX 9. Also they said call center wait times have been reduced to 5 to 15 minutes.

However, slower-than-expected enrollment numbers are pointing towards budget troubles in 2015 and 2016.

As of this week, about 92,000 Minnesotans have obtained insurance through MNsure, the Associated Press reports. The budget shortfall is expected to come due to more than two-thirds of enrollees that have purchased taxpayer-subsidized plans.

The remaining 29,500 enrolled in private insurance plans, well below the 70,000 predicted to be signed up in private plans by the end of March. Beginning in 2015, the money to fund MNsure is supposed to come from a premium tax on private plans sold on the exchange. The AP reports if enrollment trends continue, MNsure would have to find a funding source for potentially millions more to cover operating costs.

Problems have hampered MNsure's website and call center since the marketplace opened last October.

Interviews conducted by Minnesota Public Radio say MNsure's top officials, including former executive director April Todd-Malmlov, were stingy with information and ignored advice for improvement.

According to MPR, the state never tested the website on consumers before it went live.

Officials had expected MNsure to enroll up to 1.3 million people for insurance by 2016, but a recent review of the exchange by Optum found MNsure is unlikely to meet those goals.

MNsure leaders are expected to provide lawmakers with a proposed 2015 budget by March 15.

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