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Minnesota health insurance exchange

MNsure prepping for more success

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Minnesota’s state-run exchange, MNsure, was quite successful in 2014 – despite considerable technical problems – and has plans to be even more so next year. Because MNsure was so efficient with enrollment in 2014, the exchange has acknowledged that the “low hanging fruit” is gone, and they will have to work harder to enroll the remaining uninsured Minnesota residents during the 2015 open enrollment.

In April, MNsure hired Deloitte Consulting to audit MNsure’s technology and improve the website to make enrolling in coverage and updating life events easier and more streamlined.  Deloitte has been involved in successful state-run marketplaces for Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Washington.

The software upgrades were installed in August, and system testing is scheduled to begin in early September to ensure that they are glitch-free by the time 2015 open enrollment begins on Nov. 15.  These upgrades should fix most of the technology problems MNsure faced in 2014.

In addition to a smoother, more functional website, MNsure is increasing its call center and support staff so that consumers will see far shorter wait times when they contact the exchange for assistance during the second open enrollment period.  There will also be more in-person assisters in Minnesota during the 2015 open enrollment period.  MNsure is encouraging residents to utilize the exchange’s assister directory to find local navigators and brokers who can help with the enrollment process and set up appointments soon, in order to beat the open enrollment rush.

For people who have already enrolled with MNsure in 2014, the exchange has said they will be offering “both active and passive renewal” and will be contacting enrollees to let them know what – if anything – they need to do in order to keep their plan unchanged for 2015.  For enrollees who are receiving premium subsidies, it’s important to keep in mind that if the local benchmark plan changes, subsidy amounts could also change.  For most consumers, it will be worthwhile to double check the new rates and subsidy amounts before opting to renew a 2014 plan.

A study commissioned by MNsure and conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 8.9 percent in the fall of 2013 to just 4.9 percent over the course of the 2014 open enrollment period — the lowest rate in state history. The study’s author called the drop “unprecedented in Minnesota,” and the state now has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation.

According to a MNSure press release, 300,085 people obtained health insurance through the exchange as of Aug. 21: 53,770 people enrolled in private health plans, 65,749 enrolled in MinnesotaCare (health insurance program for uninsured, working residents), and 180,566 enrolled in Medical Assistance (Medicaid). While Minnesota has far exceeded its 2014 goal of 135,000 signups — which was set in October 2013 — for overall enrollment, the mix is much different than expected. Enrollment in Medical Assistance is much higher than expected, while enrollment in private health insurance is much lower.

During a phone interview in late August, the Minnesota Department of Commerce said that 2015 rates and plans are currently being reviewed, and that their goal is to have them available to the public by early October.  They can’t promise that will be the case, however, and can only say with certainty that the rates will be published by the time open enrollment begins on November 15.  Gov. Dayton has urged MNsure and the Department of Commerce to release rates by the beginning of October, and there’s considerable public pressure to do so.

Four insurers offered individual policies through the marketplace for 2014: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne, and UCare. Kaiser Health News reported that Minnesota offered some of the lowest premiums for silver (mid-level) plans in the U.S. Four of Minnesota’s nine regions made Kaiser’s list of the 10 least expensive places to buy health insurance. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area had the lowest rates in the country ($154), central Minnesota had the third lowest rates ($166), northwestern Minnesota had the fifth least expensive rates ($171), and western and north central Minnesota had the eighth least expensive rates ($180).

While low premiums are good for consumers, they raise financial concerns for the marketplace. Beginning in 2015, MNsure’s operating costs will be funded with a 3.5 percent withhold of premiums. With private health plan enrollment well below target and lower-than-expected premiums, budget projections show MNsure with a $2 million to $4 million deficit by the end of 2015.

Minnesota health insurance exchange links

855-3MNSURE (855-366-7873)

State Exchange Profile: Minnesota
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Minnesota’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.