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Forgotten letters: MNsure error leaves 16,000 uninsured

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About 16,000 applicants to the state's fledgling and often-troubled MNsure health insurance exchange have been left without insurance up to six months due to errors, according to media reports.

State officials failed to send out letters to the applicants notifying them that their applications were not complete – and therefore, they were not insured, MNsure acknowledged Wednesday, the Star Tribune reports.

Many remain possibly uninsured.

"We understand that this is unacceptable to have not been sending these notices for this period of time – to have left people in this ambiguous status," Chuck Johnson, the Minnesota Department of Human Services' deputy commissioner for policy and operations, told the Pioneer Press. "We're working to fix it as quickly as possible."

At issue were notices that should have been sent to applicants urging them to provide more information about qualifying for the state's Medical Assistance program.

Problems with the letters were noted in January, and since then, officials believed they had resolved the issues and sent all the proper notifications. But it was recently discovered that thousands of letters were not sent, the Star Tribune reports.

Such notifications were to have been sent through an automated system, but due to technical glitches, MNsure officials have relied on a number of manual workarounds – including mailed letters – to communicate with applicants. MNsure officials say a systems upgrade later this month will fully automate the process.

MNsure officials have struggled since the website's launch last fall in managing the new online health insurance marketplace. States were required as part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, to offer the marketplaces for residents to shop for insurance.

Among MNsure's woes: nearly two-thirds of its operating systems are “absent or not functioning as expected," officials from Deloitte Consulting told the MNsure board last month.

Amid the ongoing problems, MNsure officials have touted some victories. Earlier this week, MNsure officials noted that enrollments continue to grow: A total of 251,592 Minnesotans have enrolled through MNsure – 147,310 are enrolled in Medical Assistance, 52,049 in MinnesotaCare and 52,233 in a qualified health plan, a press release noted.

A primary goal of MNsure is to get health insurance coverage to low-income Minnesotans who do not have it.

And a recent analysis by the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center showed progress, noting that between September 30, 2013, and May 1, 2014, the number of uninsured Minnesotans fell by more than 40 percent to around 264,500, a record low.

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