MNsure hopes to pump up health insurance sign-ups by hanging out at the Mall of America.
On Friday, MNsure opened a kiosk on the third floor of the Mall of America, where about 11,000 people work and thousands shop, said Jenni Bowring-McDonough, a MNsure spokeswoman.
Retail and hospitality workers are somewhat less likely than other groups to have job-based coverage, so the outreach to megamall workers as well as mall patrons makes sense, Bowring-McDonough said.
The mall outreach is just one part of a broader plan to find people who lack coverage through more than 1,000 enrollment and outreach events, MNsure says. Updated television and radio ads will soon begin running, too.
All the activity has been in the works for a while, Bowring-McDonough said, and in some ways mirrors the push at MNsure before the close of last year's open enrollment period.
"There are now only 30 days left to enroll into commercial coverage before the open enrollment period ends, and we had adjusted our outreach accordingly," Scott Leitz, MNsure chief executive, said in a statement.
After Feb. 15, people can enroll in commercial health insurance only in special circumstances. Those without coverage could be subject to a tax penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act, which provided for the creation of health exchange marketplaces like MNsure.
People buying non-group coverage can buy policies outside MNsure, but the exchange is the only place to receive federal tax credits that discount premium costs.
MNsure isn't the first group to try selling health insurance at a mall. Bloomington-based HealthPartners tried a kiosk for one year at a mall in Minnetonka, and Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota currently operates a health insurance store at a shopping center in Edina.
A few years ago, Mayo Clinic opened a health and wellness store at the Mall of America but ultimately closed it.
Thursday was the deadline for people seeking private coverage through MNsure that starts Feb. 1. By the end of the day, 43,461 people had enrolled in private coverage through the government-run marketplace during the current three-month open enrollment period, MNsure announced Friday.
That's about 65 percent of the way toward MNsure's goal of enrolling 67,000 people by Feb. 15. MNsure is counting on an enrollment surge in the days leading up to that day.
"We feel cautiously confident that we will reach the 67,000 enrollment goal," Bowring-McDonough said.
Charles Gaba, who tracks enrollment numbers across the country at ACASignUps.net, wrote on Friday: "MNsure reaching their target for the year is gonna be awfully tight, but they still have a decent shot at pulling it off."
People can use MNsure to enroll in the state's Medicaid and MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs. As of Thursday, 38,405 had signed up during the current open enrollment period in Medicaid — which is called Medical Assistance in Minnesota — while 16,056 had newly enrolled in MinnesotaCare.
The Feb. 15 sign-up deadline does not apply to people enrolling in public health insurance programs for lower-income Minnesotans.
Since Minnesota launched MNsure, the majority of those enrolled through the exchange have wound up in public health insurance programs.
People buying non-group coverage constitute a small share of the state's health insurance market. As of May, about 5 percent of state residents were covered by individual policies purchased in the off-exchange market, while just under 1 percent of residents had non-group coverage through MNsure.