MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's new health care exchange celebrated a milestone Tuesday as officials announced they have exceeded their goal by enrolling over 136,700 Minnesotans in insurance plans with less than a week to go in the inaugural open enrollment period.
The MNsure board of directors set a goal of 135,000 enrollments last October, a more modest expectation than the projections of 164,000 to 270,000 individuals given to lawmakers before they approved the exchange in March last year. The exchange still has a long way to go if it's going to approach original estimates that 1.3 million Minnesotans would get their coverage there by 2016, including 300,000 who had no health insurance.
"We are thrilled that more than 136,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in quality, affordable coverage through MNsure," the exchange's chief, Scott Leitz, said in a statement. "We're not done yet. There are six days left in open enrollment, and we want to make sure every Minnesotan has the ability to obtain health insurance coverage."
MNsure has traveled a troubled road since open enrollment began last October. Its website was plagued for months by serious technical problems that made it difficult to enroll, though Leitz told reporters Monday that the site is working well now. The exchange's first executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, resigned abruptly last December after she came under fire for taking a tropical vacation while technological problems and long helpline waits remained unresolved.
In a statement, Gov. Mark Dayton said surpassing the enrollment goal "demonstrates the significant progress MNsure has made since December."
Dayton added: "This is a major achievement, but more must be done to improve MNsure's functionality and customer service for Minnesotans."
More than 36,000 Minnesotans have signed up for private insurance plans through the exchange, while over 100,000 residents have enrolled in the public Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs, the announcement said. Enrollments in the public plans, which serve lower income Minnesotans, have been significantly higher than MNsure officials anticipated, offsetting the much lower than expected sign-ups for the private plans.
People who fail to enroll by the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline face federal tax penalties of $95 or up to 1 percent of their annual income, whichever is greater. Consumers who can show that they've made a good faith effort to enroll by the deadline but can't complete the process due to technical glitches or other problems will get reprieves.
The deadline does not apply for enrolling in Medical Assistance, which is the state's version of Medicaid, or MinnesotaCare, a program for the working poor.