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With fewer hiccups, nearly 70,000 sign up through MNsure for new year

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How does 56 minutes less time on the phone sound?

Minnesotans dialing the MNsure call center last month, looking for help buying health insurance, waited an average of 5 minutes and 48 seconds this winter – a whopping 56 minutes less than those who tried to call in December 2013, when the exchange was criticized for long wait times and incessant website glitches.

MNsure detailed the 2014 winter enrollment numbers Monday, announcing 68,851 Minnesotans signed up for coverage through MNsure prior to the Dec. 31 deadline. That means they have insurance as of the new year.

As part of the news release, the exchange noted the average call center wait time was down (as explained above), and the number of reported hiccups with the site was minimal.

It wasn't flawless. A report last month said there were five known glitches giving a select number of customers problems. But compared to the deluge of reports one year ago, with users detailing the issues in frustrating fashion, the number of glitches this go-round has been small.

CEO Scott Leitz said the site has made "tremendous strides" with the consumer experience in the past year.

The 68,851 number is for sign-ups from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, a period of less than seven weeks.

Of those, 31,159 signed up for commercial coverage – about one-third of those are new customers.

The Star Tribune says almost 5,000 of those came within the final five days of the year.

Last year, in what was MNsure's first-ever sign-up period, 25,860 enrolled in commercial coverage from Oct. 1 through the end of the year – so about 5,000 fewer consumers despite a longer time period.

The remaining enrolled in either MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance programs that offer coverage to low-income residents, partly funded by taxpayer dollars.

The next coverage deadline for MNsure is Jan. 15. Enroll by that time, and health insurance will be effective starting Feb. 1.

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