More than 50,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in a private health plan through the state’s new online insurance exchange, a key benchmark that makes it more likely MNsure will be able to make its budget work, officials said Wednesday.
Enrollment in private plans is an important funding source because the agency collects a premium-based fee from insurance carriers on policies sold on the MNsure exchange.
After technical problems prevented people from buying insurance through MNsure in November and December, exchange officials scaled back their original goal of enrolling 70,000 people in individual and family plans by April 1.
The new goal was to help 50,518 people sign up for private coverage by the end of 2014, and the latest numbers brought MNsure within 422 people of that target.
Hitting the enrollment numbers could ease the financial strain heading into 2015, when MNsure must be self-sufficient under the federal health law.
Because of lower enrollment and unanticipated costs to fix the IT system, MNsure’s preliminary budget released in March seeks federal approval to carry over $5 million in existing federal grants into 2015.
The state has received $155 million in federal grants to build MNsure’s IT system, hire staff and operate the exchange in its first year.
Even though open enrollment ended March 31, MNsure’s figures continue to climb as the agency works through online forms submitted by some 36,000 Minnesotans who said technical problems prevented them from signing up for health insurance by the deadline.
Additionally, small-business owners and Minnesotans who qualify for a public health plan through Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can get coverage at any time.
Combined enrollment in public and private plans now stands at 200,174, MNsure officials said. That includes 50,096 in private plans; 41,403 in MinnesotaCare, a public program for low to moderate incomes that requires a modest premium contribution; and 108,673 in Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s version of Medicaid.
In addition to hampering enrollment, MNsure’s problem-plagued computer system also led to unanticipated expenses — such as hiring 100 temporary call center workers and replacing its original lead IT vendor with Deloitte Consulting, which recently agreed to a nine-month contract worth nearly $5 million.
MNsure has been able to reduce some costs, mainly through staff reductions and a less-costly marketing campaign. It also doesn’t expect to spend as much on navigators, who help people find coverage, mainly because fewer people used them.