By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Time is running out to buy health insurance through MNsure ahead of the new year. The deadline to enroll is midnight this Saturday if you need coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

MNsure’s CEO says rates for private health insurance are lower this year, and you could save even more if you qualify for tax rebates. Premiums are down by between 7 and 27 percent.

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This is the first year of the new Trump administration guideline that does away with the financial penalty for not having insurance. In 2017, that penalty ranged from $695 to more than $2,000 for individuals with minor children.

The elimination of those penalties has lead to a drop in enrollment in some states, but Minnesota, with its drop in premiums, is holding steady.

At MNsure operators are busy answering phones ahead of the deadline. To date, 105,900 people have enrolled for 2019, which means MNsure is on target to meet or exceed the 2018 enrollment of 116,000.

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MNsure credits the Minnesota Legislature’s 2017 adoption of a program known as “reinsurance,” which provides government subsidies for high-insurance company costs for the premium drops.

MNsure says anyone who is on the fence should investigate before Saturday’s deadline. If you miss that deadline, you can still apply for health insurance under MNsure from Dec. 16 through Jan. 13, but your insurance coverage won’t kick in until February.

“Even if you think you make too much money, come to the exchange, go through that simple selection process and get an estimate and find out what kind of credits you might be eligible for,” MNsure CEO Nate Clark said. “I think, in many cases, customers will be surprised.”

Customers can get a quick estimate using MNsure’s plan comparison tool. You can also take a look at the income guidelines here.

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MNsure phone assistance numbers are 651-539-2099 and 855-366-7873. Today the phones are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Esme Murphy