Nearly 118,000 Minnesotans enrolled in health insurance through MNsure over the past three months.
The state-run health exchange said Thursday final enrollment numbers for private health plans came in at 117,654. That's the highest figure ever for the 4-year-old program, and well above last year's total of 85,390.
Nearly half of enrollees this year (47 percent) are new to the exchange.
"When more Minnesotans are covered, our state is healthier and our economy is stronger," MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole said in a news release, while also touting the state's 96 percent insured rate.
More on the numbers
The enrollment total is from Nov. 1 (when the open enrollment period opened) through Feb. 8 – a week longer than planned, in order to give people time to take advantage of the rebates lawmakers passed.
Tax credits have been a big topic. That's because the rates for plans bought through MNsure (or directly from the insurance company) went up once again, this time by 50-67 percent.
Minnesotans who had a low enough income to qualify for tax credits didn't see much of a hit to their wallet – MNsure said Thursday those people get an average of $621 in tax credits a month to offset those costs, saving them $7,457 a year. The exchange said 64 percent of plan enrollees qualified for a tax credit.
But then there were those people who needed to buy health insurance through MNsure or privately, but made too much money to qualify for tax credits. Those people were facing having to pay the higher rates without help.
Which is where that rebate comes in. The state will spend $312 million to cover 25 percent of the costs for those people, to help alleviate the financial shock. According to The Associated Press, O'Toole said Thursday about 41,000 people will get that 25 percent relief.
People without health insurance (and this is all Americans, not just Minnesotans) face a penalty for being uninsured. It's a minimum of $695 per adult.
Public plan enrollments
The state also saw 147,880 people enroll in public program health plans – MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance, which are both targeted at people with low incomes and no access to affordable health coverage.
The future of MNsure is a bit hazy, for two main reasons: One is the rapidly rising premium hikes, which prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to call the Affordable Care Act "no longer affordable" for some people. Other officials have called it a crisis.
The other big question mark comes from the federal government. The future of the Affordable Care Act is in doubt, as President Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the health care legislation, passed under a Democratic administration. Republican lawmakers have also been onboard, though NPR recently published a story about how they're struggling to come to grips with the reality of the situation: How can they get rid of Obamacare, without leaving millions of Americans uninsured?
Meanwhile Dayton last week proposed opening up MinnesotaCare to everyone. Those who don't already qualify for it would simply pay their way, covering the cost without needing more public funding.