MNsure cites progress with days left to go

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2013 - 10:00 AM

Repairs to website continue, but many kinks remain as consumers try to get health insurance.


Marketing MNsure at the State Fair.

Photo: Tom Wallace, DML - DML -

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With just four days to get the MNsure website up to snuff and help confused consumers find their way to a health plan, the new leader of the state’s health insurance exchange said Friday he’s encouraged by “steady progress,” but that the work is far from over.

“The vast majority of people who come into our system are able to pass through much more smoothly,” MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said. “That’s not to say everything is solved here.”

Consumers have until Tuesday at midnight to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Open enrollment continues through March 31 before consumers without insurance face a penalty under the federal health law.

Leitz and an IBM representative updated Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday on the effort to resolve problems, and said the vendors are “aggressively addressing issues.”

Wait times at the MNsure call center were 57 minutes as of 1:30 p.m. on Friday, “still longer than they should be,” Leitz said, but trending downward.

State workers and an infusion of as many as 100 workers from IBM are “attacking the software side to the strongest extent that we can.”

‘I think I have insurance’

Consumers in situations such as Steve Briggs finds himself are among the biggest concerns. Briggs, 58, retired 16 months ago and was so optimistic about finding a better plan through the MNsure marketplace that he canceled his COBRA plan a few months early. At the time, he didn’t think it was such a gamble.

“I’m a retired actuary,” said Briggs, of Eagan, who qualifies for tax credits. “I don’t want to take that kind of risk.”

He filled out an application on MNsure on Nov. 1 and easily used his Visa card to buy a dental plan.

But the medical insurance plan he selected to cover him and his wife was hung up in “pending” mode for nearly two months.

He finally received word on Monday that his application has been approved.

But now, every time he goes to the page to make a payment, he bounces back to his dental payment.

“I think I have insurance,” Briggs said, “but I really don’t know.”

Focus on enrollments

Leitz and insurance leaders say they are focused on pushing people currently hung up in the enrollment process through, and much of it by hand. The goal, Leitz said, is to make sure everyone who wants coverage on Jan. 1 will have it.

“We don’t think [manual processes] will be sustainable in the long run, nor do we want them to be there in the long run,” said Leitz, who took the helm less than two weeks ago after former executive director April Todd-Malmlov resigned. “We’re trying to keep our eye on the prize in the short run.”

MNsure plans to release its latest enrollment figures Monday as the board of directors gathers a final time before Tuesday’s deadline.

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