MNsure is pretty popular so far – even with the worries about its future

There are concerns about the future of MNsure. That hasn't stopped people from signing up.

The Affordable Care Act, which led to the creation of MNsure, might not exist in the near future.

And even if it does continue to exist, health insurance prices have spiked so high over the past few years, Minnesota Democrats and Republicans agree people need help covering the costs (though have simply argued about what to do rather than getting something done).

Despite all that, health plan enrollments through MNsure are at a record high through the first sign-up stage for 2016-17.

Where we're at

MNsure said Monday 54,585 Minnesotans had purchased private health insurance through the state-run exchange.

At about this same time last year, around 27,000 people had enrolled. And there are another 100,000 applications open/in progress on the site right now, MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole said in a news release. (Though that doesn't mean all of those people will ultimately sign up.)

During all of last year's open enrollment period (which stretches from November through January), a total of 85,390 people bought private qualified health plans. So the 2016-17 period is more than halfway to that mark.

The 54,585 figure also doesn't include the 14,020 people who are eligible for MinnesotaCare, or 43,327 eligible for Medical Assistance – health insurance programs for low-income Minnesotans that are at least partially publicly funded.

It is worth noting that if you don't have health insurance, you have to pay a fine – which is at least $695. That's certainly a motivation to think about signing up.

What about the higher costs?

A lot of the discussion around MNsure the past few months has been the higher costs. Premiums went up, a lot, for the most part – though MNsure has repeatedly reminded consumers that only through the exchange can you get tax credits to offset those rising costs.

And in fact the average tax credit right now is about triple what it was last year, MNsure said last month.

In Monday's update, the exchange noted about 61 percent of enrollees in private plans were eligible for tax credits.

As for those who have to pay a higher rate, but make too much money to qualify for tax credits? That's what last week's discussion between the governor and lawmakers was about. They wanted to use some of Minnesota's surplus to provide financial relief for those Minnesotans.

But instead of finding common ground for a special session to enact that relief, they bickered for 15 minutes and gave up. Though they could reach an agreement next month when the legislative session begins.

Anything else?

Just a quick thing: The open enrollment period goes until Jan. 31, 2017.

You've missed the deadline to buy health insurance that starts Jan. 1.

But buy by Jan. 15 and insurance kicks in Feb. 1. Buy by Jan. 31, and it starts March 1.

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