By Carla Anderson
February 23, 2014
Enrollment through MNsure now exceeds 101,000 people. Just more than 31,000 people have enrolled in private health plans, and more than 70,000 enrolled in MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance (Medicaid). MNsure officials say the climbing enrollment demonstrates that website fixes and increased call center staffing are having a positive impact.
Early on, MNsure’s launch appeared to go reasonably well. However, technical problems escalated, and MNsure has faced consumer complaints, reviews by the state legislative auditor, and questions from a legislative oversight committee. Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), a division of UnitedHealth Group, was brought in to diagnose the problems with MNsure’s website and call center. QSSI was the general contractor that led efforts to fix HealthCare.gov. QSSI found serious IT problems, severe understaffing at the call center, and flawed management structure and processes. QSSI outlined three options for addressing IT problems, one of which essentially scraps the existing system and starts over. To address extremely long wait times at the call center, QSSI recommended adding 100 representatives and implementing call routing strategies. MNsure added 50 representatives on Feb. 12, and 50 more will complete training and begin taking calls on Feb. 26.
Open enrollment for private insurance continues through March 31. Minnesotans can purchase individual and family coverage from four insurers: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne, and UCare. After March 31, individuals who do not have health insurance may have to pay a penalty: $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid continues throughout the year.
Kaiser Health News reported that Minnesota has 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 has the lowest rates in the country ($154), central Minnesota has the third lowest rates ($166), northwestern Minnesota has the fifth least expensive rates ($171), and western and north central Minnesota have the eighth least expensive rates ($180).
While the low premiums are good news for consumers, they are raising concerns for the marketplace. Beginning in 2015, MNsure’s operating costs will be funded with a 3.5 percent withhold of premiums. With enrollment currently running below target and lower-than-expected premiums, budget projections show MNsure with a $2.5 million deficit by the end of 2015. MNsure needs to develop a plan for addressing that shortfall by March 15, which is the date its 2015 budget is due to the Legislature.
State Exchange Profile: Minnesota
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Minnesota’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Let your Minnesota governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton