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MNsure frustrations are tied in part to federal system

  • Article by: Jackie Crosby
  • Star Tribune
  • October 4, 2013 - 1:48 AM

Frustrations with identity verification continue to be among the chief complaints as Minnesotans log on to the state’s new health insurance exchange, known as MNsure.

The problem rests with high traffic volumes at the federal level, MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov said Thursday. Some adjustments have been made with the federal system, including giving users six chances before getting locked out (up from the previous three) and allowing people a second try within 24 hours (instead of a week).

“We know people are frustrated,” Todd-Malmlov said. “It is intermittent.”

Todd-Malmlov noted that ultimately the high traffic levels, while causing hiccups, reflect high public interest.

Volume remained strong at the MNsure site, which Todd-Malmlov said is one of only a few nationwide that has not crashed since opening its doors to insurance shoppers Tuesday afternoon. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, more than 4,200 individual and small-business accounts had been created, with the call center logging 467 calls since opening at 7:30 a.m.

Upgrades to the website continue, including the addition of a growing list of state-certified assisters and brokers that consumers may seek to help them sign up. At last count, the list included more than 1,100 organizations and 10 assister organizations, according to MNsure officials.

Brokers get paid by insurance companies for enrolling consumers and businesses in their plans. Assisters and navigators are neutral resources, paid by the state, who can answer questions about the MNsure website and about various insurance options. They are barred by state law from guiding consumers to one company or another. Both brokers and assister groups have been trained by the state and have passed background checks.

Some consumers have complained that they weren’t able to see whether their doctor or clinic is part of an insurance company’s network. That feature is part of a series of planned upgrades that will happen in December, January and March, but Todd-Malmlov declined to provide a specific timeline.

The hurdle in creating the provider search function comes both in the compressed time between when the insurance companies submitted their plans for state approval in May and then in developing a searchable database sophisticated enough to pick up differences between doctor’s names (John vs. Jonathan, for instance), she said. Doctors also move in and out of networks fairly frequently.

No exchange in the country has this feature, Todd-Malmlov said.

“If it matters to you,” suggested Robert Krughoff of Consumers’ Checkbook, “it’s a good idea to call your doctor to be sure.”

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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