Metro counties have decided that — at least to begin with — they will hire 133 more employees to handle applications from people seeking health insurance under the new federal Affordable Care Act.
The state’s website for comparing and purchasing health insurance, known as MNsure, will open in October. Expecting a flood of calls and visitors with questions once it opens, counties plan to have new staff trained by then.
Because the law allows more people to qualify for financial aid to obtain health insurance, the counties will have thousands of new public assistance cases to handle. The state has told each county how many new people to expect.
Hennepin County, the largest metro county, plans to hire the largest number of new employees, 75.
On top of the 108,000 medical assistance cases it has now, Hennepin is expecting to receive 23,000 more cases under the new system, said Curt Haats, chief financial officer for Hennepin County’s human services and public health department.
“What it all goes back to is caseload,’’ Haats said. “What we look at is how many cases the state estimates we are going to get and then we have to look at how much time each case is going to take.”
The other counties are also matching their hiring to their new case loads. Ramsey County is planning to hire 20 people; Anoka County is planning to hire 14; Washington and Dakota counties are each planning to hire nine and Scott County is planning to hire six.
The counties are expecting that federal payments will cover most of the cost of gearing up to put the new system in place.
“We’re hoping that it comes out a wash,’’ said Judith Brumfield, health and human services director for Scott County.
County officials expect that they may need the extra employees for about two years only, because with the new law will come a new computer system that is expected to make it easier and faster to do the work involved.
Anticipating that, Anoka County is calling its new hires “limited term.’’