Gov. Mark Dayton tried to assure Minnesotans that MNsure has fixed customer service problems like long wait times, dropped calls and website technical problems, which many health insurance shoppers experienced Tuesday, the first day of sign-ups.
“Minnesotans should be reassured they’re going to get good customer service,” he said Friday, citing average call wait times of 45 seconds. He praised MNsure staff for the turnaround.
Dayton said 187,000 people have visited the website and 13,000 have enrolled in health insurance plans, nowhere near the exploding volume that some feared would lock people out of insurance plans that have instituted enrollment caps.
The DFL governor has faced a major public relations crisis in his second term, as the 250,000 Minnesotans who buy insurance on the individual marketplace are forced to swallow premium spikes of at least 50 percent, while others fear their current medical care will not be covered under their new insurance. The problem is especially acute in rural areas.
Dayton, who announced a significant rebate proposal last week, said talks are ongoing with legislative leaders, with hopes for a tentative agreement Nov. 14, the Monday after the election. That would allow lawmakers to go into a special legislative session to provide assistance shortly thereafter and well before the end of insurance open enrollment.
The Department of Revenue is crafting the proposal so that the rebates would not be subject to income tax, Dayton said.
The rebates would be available to all Minnesotans, regardless of income, meaning that even doctors, lawyers and other wealthy consumers who buy individual health insurance plans would receive the rebate. Dayton said there was no mechanism in place for an income ceiling on the rebates.
The health insurance situation has also been a political problem for Dayton and the DFL, which controlled the Legislature when it enacted MNsure, the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. Republicans continue to hammer the DFL on the issue, including in a statewide broadcast TV ad purchased by the GOP-leaning Jobs Coalition this week.
Dayton continued to insist that MNsure’s phone lines had been flooded Tuesday morning by robocalls, in an apparent intentional attempt to sabotage state government. He said the first priority was to fix the situation, not investigate the potential sabotage.