MNsure meets its enrollment goal, with some caveats

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With less than a week to go until the end of open enrollment, MNsure officials said Tuesday that it has enrolled 136,774 people, exceeding a goal set in October to help 135,000 Minnesotans acquire coverage, the Star Tribune reports. The figures also show most signed up for Minnesota's public insurance programs, with enrollment numbers for private policies falling short of original projections.

The announcement comes as the state makes its final push to get people enrolled in coverage by the deadline on Monday.

“We are thrilled that more than 136,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in quality, affordable coverage through MNsure,” interim CEO Scott Leitz said in a statement. “We’re not done yet. There are six days left in open enrollment and we want to make sure every Minnesotan has the ability to obtain health insurance coverage.”

After March 31, people won't have another chance to sign up for a private policy through MNsure until the next enrollment period in November, except under certain circumstances. The deadline doesn't apply to people who are eligible for public health plans like MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

MNsure officials said the program would be somewhat flexible on the March 31 deadline in certain situations — for example, if a person tried to enroll by the deadline but was having technical problems on the MNsure website.

Late Tuesday evening, the federal government said it would take a similar flexible approach for people in the three dozen states who are using the federal health care exchange website. They'll have about two extra weeks to finish enrolling if they've had technical trouble, USA Today reports.

The deadline is important because many consumers who don't sign up for health coverage by then could have to pay a tax penalty of $95, or 1 percent of their household income. That provision in the Affordable Care Act, referred to as the individual mandate, is meant to ensure that more people sign up for coverage.

It's worth noting that the MNsure enrollment goal was originally set at 178,000 people, but was revised downward several times before the 135,000 number was set last October, according to MPR News.

MNsure is also far off the mark on its targets for the public/private policy mix of the consumers who've signed up. Only about 26 percent of people enrolling through MNsure have signed up for plans provided by private insurers. That's well below the target of 58 percent. The rest signed up for MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance.

There's real money at stake in the enrollment mix, according to MPR News, because MNsure's future funding will come from a percentage of the premium dollars paid to commercial health plans. If fewer people enroll in those plans than MNsure anticipated, the agency will receive less funding.

Preliminary budget projections for next year that were released two weeks ago showed a $5 million shortfall. The agency expects to make that up with leftover federal grant funds, according to MPR.

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