ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s health insurance exchange has signed up or renewed more than 30,000 residents since open enrollment began last month, officials said Thursday as they urged people not to wait until the last minute to meet the Dec. 15 deadline to have coverage for the start of the New Year.
MNsure is preparing for a rush of web traffic ahead of the Monday deadline, increasing call center hours to help consumers looking to avoid a lapse in coverage. MNsure CEO Scott Leitz stressed that the exchange is prepared to handle the pre-deadline spike, but that people shouldn’t wait.
“It’s simply in the consumers’ best interest to shop as early as possible and make their plan choices as early as they can,” Leitz said on a conference call Thursday.
MNsure is already seeing an uptick in enrollments that have put signups so far this year well ahead of last year, when the problem-plagued website frustrated consumers.
As of Wednesday, the exchange had signed up or renewed more than 30,000 Minnesotans since Nov. 15. That includes nearly 13,000 in private health plans — more than triple its signups in the first two months of enrollment last year.
Though Leitz said that “extremely strong” enrollment proves the exchange has drummed up interest statewide and largely fixed its technical problems, it remains to be seen whether MNsure will meet even its own scaled-back enrollment goals for private plans in 2015.
Last week, MNsure unveiled a budget that slashed its enrollment projection by a third, down to 67,000 private plan signups. Those numbers are important because the exchange funds its operations by taking a 3.5 percent fee off of private plan premiums.
The drop was due in large part to the largest provider’s decision to exit the marketplace for 2015. PreferredOne had about 59 percent of the individual market in 2014 — nearly 30,000 Minnesotans — but announced earlier this year it would leave the exchange.
MNsure is trying to woo those customers to give the exchange another shot. With phone calls, emails and postcards, Leitz said MNsure is contacting thousands of PreferredOne customers who would otherwise be renewed in a plan off the exchange, urging them to compare prices.
The subsidies offered through the exchange, combined with rising premiums at PreferredOne, mean many consumers can find a better deal on MNsure, Leitz said.
Leitz also said he expects another enrollment spike ahead of Feb. 15, the deadline to get insurance for the year to satisfy the federal health law’s mandate.
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