With the passing of a major enrollment deadline over the weekend, MNsure and insurers are reporting steady demand among consumers selecting coverage through Minnesota's health insurance exchange.
Saturday was the last chance to sign up for a health plan that takes effect Jan. 1, and MNsure officials said Monday that the plan selection tally as of Saturday night was 113,762 people — a count that's roughly comparable to the total at last year's December deadline.
Late Friday, a Texas judge issued a high-profile ruling that puts the future of the federal Affordable Care Act in question, but MNsure officials said there was no obvious impact on Saturday shoppers.
"Our call center didn't report questions from consumers on the court case during the last day of the deadline," MNsure said in a prepared response to Star Tribune questions.
MNsure is a government-run website that people can use to shop for individual insurance policies, which provide coverage to people under age 65 who are self-employed or don't get health insurance from their employer. Minnesota launched the health insurance exchange in 2014 to implement the ACA, which provides income-based tax credits to many who buy coverage through one of its insurance exchanges.
On Friday, a federal judge in Texas struck down the ACA, saying its requirement for people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional, and therefore brings down the remainder of the landmark legislation.
An appeal is expected.
State officials on Saturday said there would be no immediate effect on consumers, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement Monday saying the court's decision was not an injunction that halts the enforcement or administration of the law.
At Minnetonka-based Medica, there were a few questions from callers about the Texas decision, but nothing that suggested the court ruling was a significant factor, said Geoff Bartsh, a vice president with the insurer.
"Overall enrollment is fairly steady," Bartsh said via e-mail. "Premiums are going down and most people can keep the plan and provider they currently have."
Open enrollment at MNsure continues until Jan. 13, with coverage taking effect Feb. 1 for those who didn't hit Saturday night's deadline.
Steady demand here contrasts with results reported last week by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which was seeing enrollment declines across more than 30 states that use the federal government's health insurance exchange.
Smaller sign-up numbers at the federal level likely stem from a provision in the 2017 tax bill passed by the GOP-led Congress that repealed tax penalties in the ACA for people who lack coverage starting next year.
Other factors likely include a strong job market and reduced marketing and outreach efforts by the federal government.
Favorable premium trends could be helping Minnesota results.
The Kaiser Family Foundation said the average benchmark premium across Minnesota in 2019 for a 40-year-old nonsmoker will be $326 per month, a decline of 15 percent from the comparable rate this year.
Across the country, the average monthly premium for a 40-year-old nonsmoker next year will be $477, a decline of less than 1 percent.
On Friday, MNsure officials said sign-up tallies in Minnesota during the current open-enrollment period were running ahead of last year's pace, but the comparison is somewhat complicated since last year's first deadline fell on a later date. The sign-up tally as of Saturday night was 6 percent ahead of the comparable number on Dec. 15 last year, MNsure said, but slightly behind the tally at the end of the December deadline day (113,837 people).
"We are excited that more than 113,000 Minnesotans have already signed up for comprehensive coverage through MNsure.org during our smoothest open enrollment to-date," said Nate Clark, the MNsure chief executive, in a Monday statement.
On Saturday, calls to the MNsure contact center and website sessions were down compared to last year's deadline in December, but the number of website sessions where consumers used MNsure's online tool for comparing plans was up.
"It is likely too early to tell the impact of the [Texas] court decision given the small sample size," MNsure said in a statement. "The day of the week also comes to play" since last year's December deadline fell on a weekday.