MNsure racks up record enrollment even as market shrinks

Daniel Schriemer helps a woman sign up for subsidized health insurance.
Daniel Schriemer, a navigator at St. Paul nonprofit Portico Healthnet, works with a woman signing herself and two daughters up for publicly-subsidized health insurance on May 2, 2017. This image has been modified to protect personal identification numbers.
Brian Bakst | MPR News 2017

MNsure said the latest annual open enrollment period ended with a record breaking number of Minnesotans signing up for health plans through the exchange.

MNsure reports 116,358 commercial health plan sign-ups for 2018, up a little more than 1 percent from the previous year's record of 114,810.

Six of every ten enrollees qualified for tax subsidies that average almost $7,000 a year.

MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole said the results show how far the agency has come since the website's bungled roll-out in 2013.

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"Five years into this business people are realizing the value and we are doing better and serving them better and our numbers are growing," she said.

Although MNsure enrollment is up, the size of Minnesota's individual-market health insurance pool is down sharply over the past few years, fueling concerns about its future stability.

According to the Minnesota Health Department, enrollment in the non-group market fell almost 50 percent from a peak of about 309,000 in 2015 to about 166,000 enrollees by the middle of 2017.

"If this decline represents healthier people leaving the insurance market, premiums could continue to rise," and insurance carriers might refuse to offer coverage in some areas of the state, the department said last week.

O'Toole acknowledged the end of the federal mandate to have insurance next year could further undermine the non-group market.

"Now that open enrollment is over we're going to spend time diving into that and analyzing what's yet to come because of these federal policy changes," she said.

Correction (Jan. 17. 2018): An earlier version of this story included an inaccurate figure regarding how many enrollees qualified for tax subsidies.