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Continued: MNsure reports more than 12,000 accounts created

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 17, 2013 - 1:13 PM

“At this point, I need a broker,” she said. “I’m just frantic.”

MNsure was created as a state exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, largely to provide health coverage to the state’s uninsured.

Todd-Malmlov said the state conservatively expects 135,153 new enrollments of individuals, families and small businesses by the time open enrollment for 2014 closes on March 31. Another 60,000 enrollments are expected later in the year as people change jobs or experience other life-changing events that allow them to buy coverage.

Julie Rasmussen of St. Louis Park had no trouble logging on and shopping for plans, but said she needed more time to compare their costs and benefits. Rasmussen, 57, likely will remain on her employer plan, but she is shopping for her husband, who has a disability and raises her current premiums. “I pay a phenomenal amount to cover my husband,” she said. “It’s almost a quarter of my income.”

Lauren Fithian, 55, of Minneapolis, also wants a better deal on health coverage but still can’t get by MNsure’s security questions and register for an account.

“I got the same nonsensical questions today that I got yesterday and all the days before,” she said in an interview.

Revenue issues

MNsure board members said Wednesday that the site’s problems were in line with what they expected, given the rushed rollout of an ambitious website that connects with a variety of federal data sets to determine premiums for enrollees and whether they are eligible for discounts or subsidies.

However, they encouraged MNsure staff to continue to improve it.

“When you’re talking about IT,” said board member Thomas Forsythe, “user experience rules.”

Efforts to assist MNsure users in person also have been slow to develop. Trained helpers, called navigators, couldn’t assist users right away because of delays in their training and certification.

Security concerns still prevent brokers from accessing MNsure in a way that allows the brokers to complete enrollment for the customers remotely.

And, technically, nobody has fully completed enrollment for a plan on MNsure yet, because the state is behind schedule on turning over enrollment applications to the insurers providing the plans.

While Todd-Malmlov said the plans will get information soon, the delay was fodder for Republican legislators opposed to Obamacare in general and Minnesota’s decision to invest in its own exchange.

“The longer MNsure remains in disarray, the fewer people will actually get insurance,” said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley.

A looming concern is whether MNsure will meet its revenue goals, because the exchange is funded by withholding a percentage of premium dollars paid to insurers. With premium amounts coming in lower than expected in Minnesota, the exchange will need plenty of enrollees to cover costs.

MNsure officials remained optimistic.

Joel Martinez, a navigator with Portico Healthnet who is certified to help people select plans, said there is a lot of enthusiasm from the people coming to his office.

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