MNsure continues to make progress on enrollment goals for 2018, officials said Friday, as the state’s health insurance exchange nears a deadline next week for January coverage.
Friday was the final deadline for people in most other states to buy individual market coverage through the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website.
In Minnesota, state officials opted to give more time for people shopping via MNsure, with the open enrollment period stretching through Jan. 14. People who don’t hit the deadline on Wednesday for coverage that starts Jan. 1 will still have a few weeks to buy policies that take effect in February.
“We’re about 5,000 enrollments ahead of where we were at this time last year,” said Jeremy Drucker, a MNsure spokesman. “We expect that number to continue growing since the deadline for January coverage isn’t until Dec. 20.”
MNsure is an option for the roughly 166,000 Minnesotans who buy individual health insurance, a group comprising primarily people under age 65 who are self-employed or don’t get coverage from their employer.
As of Friday, 101,626 people had signed up for 2018 coverage via MNsure, with just over four weeks to go in open enrollment. By the end of last year’s open enrollment period, the sign-up tally for 2017 coverage was 117,654.
Sign-up tallies tend to be larger than the “effectuated enrollment,” which counts the number of people actually buying coverage in a given month. Some who sign up don’t even pay the first month’s premium.
The number of paying customers fluctuates during the year. Some drop out of the market because they’ve found other coverage or opt to go without insurance, while others enter the market under special circumstances.
This year, effectuated enrollment at MNsure has ranged from a March peak of roughly 94,000 down to 87,491 in October. Next year, the exchange’s budget assumes an early peak of 97,424 with year-end effectuated enrollment at 91,224 — a growth rate of roughly 4 percent.
“We’re still optimistic that we’ll meet or exceed our budget goal for effectuated enrollment,” Drucker said.
Minnesota launched the MNsure exchange to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires almost all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Republicans in Washington, D.C., say they plan on eliminating the health law’s mandate for individuals to have coverage in tax legislation moving through Congress. It’s a move that insurers fear could lead to healthy people leaving the market, and it’s one factor that explains why analysts expect enrollment will hold steady or decline across the country on health exchanges launched under the ACA.
The federal HealthCare.gov website serves as the insurance exchange in most states, including Iowa and Nebraska. In both states, Minnetonka-based Medica is the only carrier selling “on-exchange” individual market coverage for 2018.
Whereas Medica this summer provided individual market coverage to about 50,000 people in Iowa and Nebraska, the insurer earlier this week said it had seen about 75,000 sign-ups in those states for 2018 coverage.
“People typically wait until the last minute to sign up and we should know more next week,” said Greg Bury, a Medica spokesman, via e-mail. He added: “We won’t have accurate enrollment numbers until January sometime as we don’t count the member as enrolled until they have made their first month’s premium payment.”