Second-quarter enrollment in private health plans through the MNsure exchange has increased by about 95% compared with the same period last year.

About 16,500 enrolled in private health plans via MNsure between March and mid-June, according to numbers released this week. The tally for the same period last year was 8,462 people.

“As expected, private health plan sign-ups have been driven by concerns amid the pandemic,” MNsure said in a statement.

Minnesota state government launched MNsure in late 2013 as part of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

It’s an online marketplace where individuals who don’t get coverage from an employer can buy private health insurance. Applicants also learn if they might qualify for the state’s Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 33,763 people in the state have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 since early March. The disease in Minnesota has caused 1,397 deaths.

In March and April, MNsure opened a special enrollment period for uninsured residents who wanted coverage as the pandemic spread across the state. About 6,000 people signed up for private coverage as a result.

In addition, MNsure is offering a special enrollment period for people with coverage outside the exchange who have experienced a decrease in income that makes them eligible for federal tax credits under the ACA.

Special enrollment in private coverage is always an option through MNsure whenever state residents experience certain qualifying life events such as job loss.

Between March and mid-June, about 83,000 people used the exchange to apply for state public health insurance programs. Not all those who applied are necessarily enrolled, since applications via MNsure must be finalized.

Public-program applications through MNsure are down compared with last year’s second quarter. That’s likely because the state in most cases is not terminating coverage, reducing benefits or increasing cost sharing for an enrollee during the COVID-19 emergency, according to the state Department of Human Services (DHS).

“As a result, people who ordinarily would have their coverage end and then reapply through MNsure have not needed to reapply,” DHS said in a statement.


Twitter: @chrissnowbeck