MNsure cuts 2015 health plan enrollment projections by one-third

Updated 4:35 p.m. | Posted 3 p.m.

MNsure on Wednesday said it was cutting by about one-third the number of people it expects will enroll in private health plans through the exchange for 2015.

That means MNsure will also see a drop in revenue, although officials say they expect to end the fiscal year next June with no red ink.

MNsure officials pointed to the departure of PreferredOne, the lowest cost and most popular health insurer selling plans, as a factor in the revisions. PreferredOne bowed out of the state health exchange in September, saying that continuing to sell insurance on MNsure was "not sustainable."

MNsure gets some funding based on a small percentage of premium payments. In October MNsure projected that revenue would amount to almost $6.9 million but that estimate has now been reduced to about $5.3 million. That's based on an assumption that 37,000 people will sign up again and 30,000 newcomers will get private plans through MNsure instead of the 50,000 projected originally.

MNsure is hardly alone in getting enrollment projections right, said Julie Sonier, deputy director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota.

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All the states running their own exchanges are struggling with "how to make predictions about what's going to happen in this coming open enrollment period," she said.

The projections affect the exchange budgets because they collect a percentage of premiums to fund operations. But MNsure officials say they expect to finish the next three fiscal years with a surplus.

Looking ahead to fiscal years 2016 and 2017 they expect to spend less than half the roughly $35 million spent this year on information technology, and budgets should remain balanced.

Despite the revision, MNsure officials say enrollments in private plans during the first two weeks of open enrollment occurred at 17 times the level of the first two weeks of open enrollment last year.

MNsure said as of Wednesday morning almost 19,000 people enrolled in public and private plans with more than 7,100 signing up for private health insurance.