State IT officials are attempting fixes this weekend to two MNsure glitches that have emerged during the current open enrollment period.

Over the past 10 days, three MNsure users have told the Star Tribune about a problem when health insurance applicants are asked how many years they will permit the exchange to automatically verify federal tax information.

Users who respond by selecting “zero” subsequently find they don’t have a federal tax credit to discount the coverage costs.

The Star Tribune reported the other problem earlier this month as MNsure users complained they lost partial applications, and had to start the process all over, when they hit the “save and exit” button on the health exchange website.

The partial application problem affected about 600 people, MNsure officials estimated earlier this month. On Friday, they didn’t put a number on how many people are running into the tax credit problem.

“These are the only two ‘glitches’ we’ve seen so far this year, and they are impacting a small minority of enrollees,” wrote MNsure spokesman Shane Delaney in a Friday e-mail. “We are improving from previous years.”

Minnesota launched the MNsure health insurance exchange in 2013 to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires almost all Americans to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.

After its debut with serious website problems and an overwhelmed call center, MNsure has fallen short of enrollment goals despite technical improvements.

Heidi Michaels Mathson, an insurance agent with Dyste Williams in Minneapolis, said she’s encountered the problem with tax credits while working with three different clients this year.

It’s a big problem for people who are struggling to afford health insurance, and want assurance that the tax credits will help cover the cost, said Michaels Mathson.

“They have to enroll without the credit, and hope that MNsure fixes it,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Or, they can take their tax credit when they file their taxes, but they have to pay the full premium amount in the meantime.”

Delaney, the MNsure spokesman, said those are not the only two options. The exchange can either do a manual enrollment over the phone, he said, or reset the application so the consumer can continue online.

“By no means is a ‘wait and see’ approach ever something that we would consider to be a solution,” Delaney wrote. “We have worked to make sure all our contact center employees are aware of various procedures and it is fair to say that once in a while inaccurate information does get out.”

That’s apparently what happened with Stefanie Nelson, 39, of Grand Rapids, who said MNsure suggested earlier this month that she enroll without a tax credit after encountering the glitch.

After the Star Tribune contacted MNsure about the situation, Nelson said exchange officials contacted her about resetting her family’s application. Nelson now believes her family’s coverage is set for 2016, but not everything is perfect.

On Friday, Nelson wrote in an e-mail that she still doesn’t have confirmation of the enrollment. She estimated spending about 13 hours this month trying to sign-up for coverage between phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages.

“I personally think MNsure is not working well at all,” Nelson wrote. “They are demanding we get insurance, yet they cannot provide a complete service to purchase the insurance as promised.”

 

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck