By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A major issue in this year’s governor’s race is the state health care exchange MNsure, and how it’s performing.

MNsure maintains it’s making progress in signing people up for health care. But the numbers are still far short of projections. And some are concerned that more taxpayer dollars will be needed, to subsidize the program.

This week, MNsure announced numbers it says shows the health exchange is on the right track. So far, 92,000 Minnesotans have purchased insurance through MNsure, but critics points out two-thirds of those signing up are enrolled in government subsidized program like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.

Only about one third signed up for private insurance plans — far below the projected numbers. That’s a problem because starting in 2015, money to fund MNsure is supposed to come from a tax on those private plans. If that trend continues, MNsure will face a substantial deficit and taxpayers may have to bail out the program.

MNsure’s interim CEO Scott Leitz appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“With regards to the private side, we are running about 30,000 right now, but we do anticipate because of the mandate that people have health insurance coverage by March 31,” Leitz said. “The people who are most likely to put off getting that coverage are the people who are going to be coming in through the private side. So, we anticipate seeing some increases as we move into March.”

Meanwhile, concerns continue for MNsure’s website.

One example came up just this weekend. Feb. 15 was a deadline for signing up and purchasing insurance if you wanted coverage by March 1, but application services on the MNsure website shut down on the evening of Feb. 15 for scheduled maintenance.

Leitz insists the website will continue to improve — and it will have to. A surge in traffic is expected ahead of the March 31 deadline for all Americans to carry insurance.

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