The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 11, 2013

Dayton wants MNsure problems solved soon

MNsure double amount of workers at call center, thousands have signed up

PATRICK CONDON
Associated Press

---- — ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he is disappointed that problems with the state's health insurance exchange have not been resolved as the enrollment deadline nears for coverage to begin Jan. 1.

Dayton told a group of county officials that worries about MNsure keep him up at night. He elaborated later, saying he thinks the exchange should be working more smoothly by now, and that he has communicated his sense of urgency to its leaders.

"It's 2½ months now since it got started and, to my mind, past the point where these kinds of snags should have been resolved," Dayton said. The Democratic governor signed the legislation that created MNsure and appointed its board of directors, though the group is now autonomous from his supervision.

Last week, the executive director of the organization that represents Minnesota's largest insurance companies released a letter expressing alarm that some data the companies are getting from MNsure about enrollees still contain inaccuracies, omissions and conflicting information.

Insurers are worried the problems "will result in consumers not having coverage on Jan. 1," wrote Julie Brunner of the Minnesota Council on Health Plans. MNsure officials said they continue to work to resolve problems and have promised that anyone who completed the application process by the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline could count on coverage as of Jan. 1 even if technical problems prevent plans from being finalized.

Federal government data released Wednesday show Minnesota in the middle of the pack for private insurance signups under the federal health overhaul, with 4,478 people. However, federal officials say an additional 5,703 people signed up for Minnesota Care, the state's program for low-income people and families, through MNsure.

Overall, Minnesota has signed up people for public insurance at a faster pace. By the end of November, 20,108 people had signed up for either MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance through the health exchange. Experts say private insurance enrollees are needed to make the federal health care law successful.

MNsure officials have said they expect the pace of private insurance signups to hasten this month. April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure's executive director, said last week that she believes people buying private insurance have been slower to select a coverage plan because it involves payments out of their own pockets. She said she expected many to wait until the final days.

As that deadline approaches, MNsure's call center has struggled to handle a flood of questions. On Wednesday, the estimated wait time was 60 minutes to get through to the center.

MNsure announced Wednesday it recently doubled the number of workers at the call center and would add more in the next few days. The agency also announced Wednesday that it was expanding the hours that its website, MNsure.org, is open for customer use. The website now will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday. The site had been closed Sundays.