The three-month period where Minnesotans could buy health insurance coverage through MNsure is now over – and nearly half of those who signed up for private plans were new to the program.
Monday morning, MNsure said 85,390 Minnesotans purchased private health plans during the open enrollment period (from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31). That number beat their target of 83,000 heading into the period.
Of those who enrolled in private plans, 45 percent were new to the exchange – the highest percentage nationwide, MNsure says.
In total, about 23,000 more Minnesotans signed up for private health coverage this year compared to last. MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole said in the news release she considers that "a success."
In addition, 33,333 Minnesotans enrolled in MinnesotaCare, and 73,173 newly enrolled in Medical Assistance – both public health programs for lower-income Minnesotans.
Those figures come just a week after a report from the legislative auditor, which found the Department of Human Services did not adequately verify whether people who enrolled in public health programs last year were actually eligible – potentially costing the state up to $271 million.
MNsure says 7,144 Minnesotans also signed up for a dental-only plan.
The numbers are preliminary at this point.
Tax credits and the call center
Leading up to the open enrollment period, MNsure touted tax credits – only available to people buying through the health exchange – as a way to help keep peoples' monthly premiums cheaper.
MNsure said Monday that in 2015, Minnesotans saved $50 million on those costs by getting tax credits.
The exchange said it got 275,060 calls during the open enrollment period – higher than last year's total of 212,785. Calls were answered in 5 minutes or less 90 percent of the time this go-round.
"We spent a lot of time this open enrollment telling Minnesotans about the benefits of MNsure and how it is the only place to save money on their monthly premiums," O'Toole said in the release. "Today's numbers speak for themselves. Minnesotans received that message loud and clear."
Get insurance, or get fined
Everyone is required to have health insurance coverage (unless you’re one of the few exempt) – and if you don’t, you’ll face a fine.
And that fine is higher than last year. In 2016, it’ll be either 2.5 percent of certain taxable income, or a flat $695 – whichever one is greater.
This is the third year of enrollments for the state-run health insurance exchange, created under 2012’s Affordable Care Act. The first year was plagued by technical glitches and a busy call center, though things went more smoothly in year two. Those who tried to sign up just before the first deadline this year also faced lengthy wait times to the call center.