To keep pace with private health insurers, the state’s MNsure exchange announced Saturday that it is extending its first enrollment deadline until Dec. 28.
Before the announcement, individuals seeking coverage that starts in January had until Tuesday to enroll through the MNsure exchange.
Last week, at least one private health insurer said it would take applications for “off-exchange” coverage until month’s end. During last year’s open enrollment, MNsure also extended deadlines in December in response to moves by private insurers.
“The enrollment deadline extension is not in response to any system issues or technical problems,” MNsure said in a statement issued Saturday. “The change comes as some health insurance companies expressed interest in offering plans through the end of the month.”
Minnesota created the MNsure marketplace two years ago to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires almost all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
During its first open enrollment two years ago, MNsure’s website was plagued by technical problems that led to an overwhelmed call center. The exchange improved last year, but has fallen short of enrollment goals.
Individuals and families who don’t get coverage from an employer or the government can buy policies from private insurers through MNsure, or purchase policies directly from the companies. Federal tax credits that discount premium costs are only available to those buying through MNsure.
Premiums in the individual market are skyrocketing for 2016, with an average increase of 41 percent. As a result, more people are qualifying for federal subsidies, Allison O’Toole, the MNsure chief executive, said in a statement.
Despite the deadline extension issued Saturday, O’Toole encouraged people not to wait. The exchange is adding resources to its call center to handle demand.
“It is in the best interest of all Minnesotans to enroll as soon as possible,” she said in a statement. “Waiting to enroll could mean you will not have ID cards or other plan information on January 1.”
As of Tuesday, 17,678 people had signed up for private coverage through MNsure since the start of open enrollment in November. The enrollment period extends until Jan. 31, with January deadlines bringing coverage that starts in February or March.
In addition to buying private health insurance, Minnesotans use MNsure to enroll in public health insurance programs. As of Tuesday, 22,500 people had signed up for the Medical Assistance program during open enrollment, while another 9,691 had signed up for MinnesotaCare.