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MNsure pushes enrollment as deadline to sign up approaches

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There's a deadline crunch approaching for Minnesotans to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2014, and MnSure is engaged in "March to Enroll," a major push to help people sign up before the window closes. Most Minnesotans have until March 31 to buy coverage or pay a penalty.

The Star Tribune reports there are 650 signup activities statewide to reach the uninsured, including health fairs, billboards, phone banks, signs on city buses, commercials on radio and TV and alerts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, 1,400 certified navigators, including those with multilingual skills, are working one-on-one with the uninsured through health fairs in various communities.

The Associated Press reported that a number of polls show as many as three-quarters of uninsured Americans remain uninformed about the approaching deadline. These respondents don't realize that after the end of the month, they will face penalties and will be unable to buy insurance until November, even if they want to. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months — or calendar quarter— of 2013.

MPR News reported that MNsure interim CEO Scott Leitz said added staff at the call center for the state's online insurance exchange will help consumers to have a smoother experience.

"Wait times now are running around less than a minute, so we're ready and able to take calls that come in and answer them very quickly," Leitz said.

Last fall, the MNsure website had numerous glitches and shutdowns dealing with the traffic to meet the December 31 deadline. More than 113,000 Minnesotans have purchased coverage through MNsure, but that number falls short of original estimates, in part because the website's stubborn technical problems. MNsure troubleshooters are working through a backlog of people who had trouble signing up due to those troubles. Most callers who run into complex problems now will be contacted by MNsure within 24 to 48 hours to complete the signup process, Leitz said.

Of the 490,000 uninsured Minnesotans, about 60 percent are eligible for public programs, and tens of thousands more are eligible for tax credits available only through the MNsure website.

Medica, HealthPartners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and St. Paul-based Portico Healthnet are among the insurance companies with strategies to help reach the uninsured and help them enroll in private insurance plans.

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