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Feds give state another $41 million for MNsure

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The federal government has given Minnesota another $41 million grant to continue the rollout of MNsure, the state's new online health insurance marketplace.

The new cash infusion means the feds have now given the state about $155 million to invest in staff, vendors and the MNsure website itself, the Star Tribune reports.

More specifically, the money will be used for "general operations, IT and related systems, technology-related costs including security training and system improvements, to evaluate future quality rating systems and consumer satisfaction surveys, and ongoing operations through 2014," MNsure officials say.

The federal government on Oct. 1 launched a key component of the Obama administration's signature health care law, the Affordable Health Care Act. That component allows consumers and small businesses to shop for health insurance online. In many states, that online tool is the federally-run HealthCare.gov, but 13 states chose to run their own websites, including Minnesota, which launched MNsure.

Both the federal site and MNsure have had widely publicized technical glitches that in many cases prevented consumers from creating accounts and buying insurance.

Problems with HealthCare.gov have been so bad that GOP critics have called for the firing of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and tempers flared as Democrats and Republicans traded barbs at a congressional hearing on Thursday over who was to blame.

In Minnesota, MNsure ranked below average in a recent national survey of customer experience and usability. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said people should give the site a year before judging it too harshly.

But interest in MNsure remains high despite the technical issues; the MNsure call center (1-855-366-7873) remains busy.

Nearly 22,000 people and almost 700 small businesses have created accounts, the Star Tribune reports. It's not known how many actually bought insurance through the site as of Friday; an update is expected on Nov. 6, the newspaper reports.

At last count, more than 3,700 had actually enrolled in a plan through MNsure.

MNsure enrollment is slated to continue through March. Consumers who buy insurance before mid-December will have coverage effective Jan. 1.

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