MNsure experience ranks below average

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The Minnesota health care exchange ranks below average in a new national survey of customer experience and usability. The survey examined health care exchanges that rolled out Oct. 1 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The Star Tribune reports the main shortcomings in Minnesota were the high number of steps a user must take to pick a plan and the long wait time to speak to someone for help.

The study was conducted by HealthPocket.com, a free site that compares health plans. That site reports Minnesota's plan requires 18 steps to arrive at a screen where a user can pick plans. That's more steps than any other state, and can be discouraging to users, according to HealthPocket.com. There is a risk they'll give up.

Officials at MNsure said nearly 4,000 people have successfully navigated the site to enroll in plans, and more than 5500 have completed applications. Officials say that's almost 10 percent of the statewide goal of 135,153 -- just two weeks into the six-month enrollment period.

“The HealthPocket survey is one view of things,” said MNsure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough. “However, Minnesotans are navigating MNsure and they are securing health insurance.”

The report notes that all the state exchanges do not use the same underlying software system. In all, 36 states use the federal government’s Healthcare.gov technology for their health plan comparisons and enrollment functionality, with the remaining states administering their own web sites.

From the report:

One of the challenges with online shopping is that more steps increase the risk of web site visitors abandoning the shopping process. The most successful ecommerce web sites such as Amazon.com minimize the number of steps from the home page to product comparisons. On Amazon’s web site, a consumer can shop for products in as little as two steps.6 However, it should be noted that the exchanges have a consumer incentive that Amazon does not: Failure to enroll in health insurance can result in a tax penalty.

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