For Minn. health insurance marketplace, operators will be standing by starting in September

  • Article by: STEVE KARNOWSKI , Associated Press
  • Updated: June 12, 2013 - 8:07 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The call center for Minnesota's new health insurance marketplace will be operational Sept. 3 to help prepare consumers for buying coverage when open enrollment begins a month later, officials said Wednesday.

MNsure's executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, updated board members on customer assistance plans for the exchange, where starting Oct. 1 about 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to get their coverage, including 300,000 who don't currently have health insurance.

Todd-Malmlov said the goal is "a seamless customer service experience for everyone using MNsure" with "one common front door" for everyone using the system, whether they're individual purchasers or smaller businesses seeking coverage for their workers.

The call center will stress "first call resolution," she said, trying to get as many people as possible the information they need on the first try, without transferring them multiple times. Another goal is "rapid access to a live person" to limit time spent on hold. And for people whose questions are too complicated for the call center operators to handle, she said the goal will be to connect them with the right person or outside agency as directly as possible.

Todd-Malmlov said MNsure already has taken about 600 applications for the 35 initial call center positions, and may add more jobs this fall if they're needed.

Minnesota is one of several states that are setting up their own health care exchanges under the Obama administration's health care overhaul, but over half plan to let the federal government run their exchanges. Nine carriers have submitted proposals to sell policies on Minnesota's exchange and are awaiting approval.

The state-based exchanges will also rely on one-on-one in-person assistance, using several categories of trained people with titles like "navigators" to help people figure out their options and complete the application process. Todd-Malmlov said groups ranging from community organizations to farm groups to Chambers of Commerce and tribal organizations are being recruited to provide those services. She said those groups will be limited to providing impartial information. Recommending specific insurance policies will be limited to licensed professionals such as insurance agents and brokers, she said.

About 26 groups and 641 agents and brokers have filed applications to assist in the process since the state began taking them last Thursday, she said. Grants will be awarded in August and training and certification will take place in August and September, she said.

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