Second MNsure enrollment begins smoothly

Call center representative Bee Vang
MNsure call center representative Bee Vang was one of nearly 100 staff members fielding consumer questions Saturday.
Tim Nelson / MPR News

MNsure officials say the launch of their second open enrollment period is going smoothly so far.

The state health insurance exchange started taking applications for its second year at 8 a.m. Saturday. By noon, CEO Scott Leitz said, about 140 people had enrolled.

That's a small number, but Leitz said his agency was happy that the process was moving briskly.

"We are laser focused on the consumer experience," Leitz said at a press briefing at the MNsure headquarters Saturday afternoon. "Wait times are averaging about a minute" at the call center in downtown St. Paul, he said.

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Leitz also said the website seemed to be working well. Officials estimate there were about 6,000 unique visitors to mnsure.org, and about 1,000 people at a time were shopping on the site by the lunch hour.

"This is really great news," Leitz said. "The site itself is faster. It's more stable."

That is in contrast to last year's launch of the program. Earlier this year, a consultant found that barely a third of the website's features worked as intended last fall. The MNsure website was overwhelmed by traffic, as were the few dozen people handling the phones at the MNsure call center.

About 100 people were taking calls for MNsure this morning, said spokesman Joe Campbell. He said the traffic appeared to be routine, with callers looking for password resets and other administrative help.

MNsure has covered about 47,000 people under individual and private health plans. Officials with the exchange encouraged consumers to shop for next year, even if they have a plan they like. Subsidies for the insurance premiums may go up or down on a case-by-case basis, potentially offering consumers more help, or a potential surprise on their tax bill if their income has changed their eligibility. And consumers who used Preferred One will need to find a new plan, since that insurer has dropped out of the system this year.

Some minor technical problems were reported. Spokesman Joe Campbell said consumers could take a few steps to make the web application process easier: Use the Chrome, Firefox or Safari web browsers, clear the browser cache and history before beginning, and plan for enough time to get through the entire process in one session.

The enrollment deadlines are December 15 for coverage beginning on January 1, 2015, and the last deadline is February 15, 2015 for enrollees to receive coverage in 2015.

People on public health plans, like Medicaid and Minnesota Care, are being asked to wait for word from the Minnesota Department of Human Services for more information on their enrollment for 2015.

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