MNsure fixes tax credit glitch in St. Louis County
Director ousted amid continuing problems with new state insurance exchange
REGIONAL—Officials with the new MNsure health insurance exchange have finally made progress in fixing the error that had miscalculated tax credits for hundreds of St. Louis County residents who were seeking coverage through the new program.
Local insurance agents working with MNsure, who are known as “assisters,” say the program is finally beginning to work as it was designed.
That was a bit of good news for the new insurance exchange in a week that was otherwise plagued by growing doubts about whether tens of thousands of Minnesotans will actually be fully enrolled in health insurance by the Jan. 1 deadline.
Such concerns led the MNsure board of directors on Tuesday to replace April Todd-Malmlov as the director of the state-run program. Malmlov is being replaced on an interim basis by Todd Leitz, who has served in the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Leitz said his immediate priority is to ensure that private insurance carriers are able to get the information they need to fully enroll consumers in health coverage by the initial Jan. 1 deadline.
The error in calculating tax credits, which MNsure officials say was limited to St. Louis and LeSeuer counties, was one of many technical glitches that have plagued MNsure since its launch. Officials have yet to explain the cause of the error, but it has been a frustration to consumers in St. Louis County seeking to sign up for private health insurance on the MNsure website since the site opened for business on Oct. 1. It was equally frustrating to insurance agents and brokers who have been assisting clients who want to sign up through MNsure. Because the website improperly calculated tax credits in St. Louis County, users of the website could not determine the final cost of their insurance coverage.
When first reported back in November, MNsure officials were reluctant to acknowledge the problem. But after hearing repeated complaints from insurance agents in St. Louis County, MNsure officials acknowledged on Dec. 6 that the error was a real one, and they have taken steps to resolve it. By Dec. 11, local insurance assisters were reporting success.
“It’s finally calculating the premium tax credit correctly and I’ve put through four new enrollments, start to finish,” said Aaron Undeland of Range Reliable Insurance, who is an assister for MNsure.
Undeland has been in frequent contact with MNsure officials in recent weeks, pressuring them to address the problem being experienced in St. Louis County. The tax credits in question are applied up front to the premiums that people pay through MNsure for private coverage, substantially reducing the cost of premiums in many cases.
Residents of St. Louis County, who have not yet enrolled in a private plan through MNsure, should now be able to do so without experiencing the problems seen earlier. For those county residents who have previously applied, but not yet enrolled, MNsure officials now say they will be contacting them by phone to let them know that their applications are being cancelled and they should reapply, at which point the website should now be able to calculate their tax credit properly.
MNsure officials will also be contacting those who have already enrolled in a health plan, but did not receive a tax credit to which they were entitled.
“MNsure is working with the carriers to adjust the amount that will need to be paid,” said MNsure spokesperson Jenni Bowring-McDonough. “We will contact those consumers and make adjustments per their tax credit eligibility.”