MNsure exceeds enrollment goal by 34,000
April 14, 2014
Open enrollment for individual private insurance coverage ended March 31 in Minnesota. However, MNsure announced it would be flexible for consumers who made “good-faith” efforts to sign up.
Those consumers who completed an “Enrollment Attempt Form,” but made no other attempt to sign up have until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, to select a health plan and until April 30 to make their first premium payment. MNsure says about 8,000 consumers face the April 22 deadline. Those who miss these deadlines won’t have another opportunity to sign up for health insurance until Nov. 15 unless they experience a qualifying event.
MNsure will continue working with about 23,500 consumers who started an application on or before March 31, but were unable to finish. In a press release, MNsure says it is working through these applications and will contact consumers when further action is required.
Enrollment for Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare, and small businesses continues throughout the year. American Indians can also enroll throughout the year.
Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.
As of April 1, enrollment through MNsure exceeded 169,000 people. About 47,000 people have enrolled in private health plans, 34,200 enrolled in MinnesotaCare, and 88,000 enrolled in Medical Assistance (Medicaid). While Minnesota has exceeded its goal 135,000 signups — which was set last October — 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. Enrollment figures are expected to increase, perhaps substantially, as about 36,000 people completed the Enrollment Attempt Form in the final days of March.
Minnesotans were more likely to buy higher premium/lower deductible plans than consumers in other parts of the country. In Minnesota, 13 percent selected gold plans and 29 percent selected platinum plans; nationally, the figures were 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively. 2014 premiums in Minnesota are among the lowest in the country, which most likely explains the tilt toward higher end policies. Twenty-two percent of those enrolled in a health plan are between the ages of 18 and 34, and an additional 10 percent are 17 or younger.
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 representatives and implementing call routing strategies. MNsure added 100 representatives in February, and average wait time had dropped below three minutes by the end of the month.
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 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 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
State Exchange Profile: Minnesota
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Minnesota’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.