MNsure lowering enrollment expectations

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MNsure, the state's new health insurance exchange, is lowering its estimates for how many Minnesotans will end up using the website to enroll in private insurance plans, the Star Tribune reports.

MNsure was aiming to enroll about 70,000 people in private plans by April 1. But revised estimates presented to the board of directors on Wednesday lowered the goal to just over 50,000 by the end of the year, according to the Star Tribune.

The Legislature created MNsure last year to implement the federal Affordable Care Act in Minnesota, which requires almost all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. People can use the MNsure website to buy commercial insurance policies.

Beyond signing up for private coverage, people use MNsure to see if they qualify for the Medicaid or MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs. More than 73,000 people have now enrolled in those programs through MNsure, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Interim CEO Scott Leitz said the overall enrollment target for both private and government plans is 135,000, and he said that goal is “close to on target.”

MNsure must be financially self-sufficient by next year, and will fund operations by withholding up to 3.5 percent of premiums sold on the marketplace. The lower enrollment projections could lead to lower than expected revenues for the program, according to the Pioneer Press.

It's not yet clear what the new enrollment numbers will mean for MNsure's budget. But MNsure board member Tom Forsythe, an executive at General Mills, said the agency may need to find $2 million to $4 million in savings in 2015.

MNsure expects to see a crush of activity in the next several weeks as non-insured residents must sign up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline or face a tax penalty.

Officials say consumers should have a much easier time doing so, as the technical problems and long wait times for service have largely been resolved, MPR News reports.

The agency says hold times averaged three minutes in mid-February, down from an hour in December, primarily because it added 100 new call center personnel in February.

Meanwhile, MNsure is also reducing the number of online applications that have been on hold due to software glitches. The number of pending insurance applications has fallen to 811, compared to 7,103 at year-end, according to MPR.

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