As of March 31, nearly 170,000 Minnesotans had enrolled; another 36,000 filed intent to enroll forms
REGIONAL— Minnesota has a new “Comeback Kid” in the state’s upstart health insurance program, known as MNsure. Just three months ago, the program was being derided from across the political aisle for technical problems that seemingly threatened to doom the launch of the new program, created as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
But on Tuesday, MNsure officials had an entirely different story to tell, as a monumental effort in the month of March pushed statewide enrollment through the program to nearly 170,000 Minnesotans. “More than 169,000 Minnesotans have enrolled for health coverage through MNsure, blowing past our projection of 135,000 in October,” said MNsure’s interim CEO, Scott Leitz.
In addition, another 36,000 Minnesotans filled-out Enrollment Attempt forms on the MNsure website, but were unable to complete the enrollment process by the deadline. MNsure officials will be following up with those individuals over the next couple of weeks, which will only add to the total number of enrollees.
The deadline for enrollment in health coverage for 2014 passed at midnight, on March 31, ending the initial sign-up period for coverage in a private health insurance plan. Those qualifying for MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance can continue to sign up, as can small businesses or members of federally-recognized Indian tribes. Individuals who lose insurance coverage through a change in job status, or who experience other major life changes, such as marriage or divorce, or who have a child, can also continue to apply for new or amended coverage through MNsure despite the deadline.
MNsure succeeded through a combination of sheer determination, a much-improved website, and more than 1,000 sign-up opportunities, held in March on college campuses, in libraries, and even in bars. The so-called “March to Enroll” focused on signing up Minnesota’s “Young Invincibles,” who are seen as key to the success of health care reform.
As MNsure officials had anticipated, both the program’s website and call centers saw a last minute crush of enrollees as the deadline loomed this past weekend. The call center had received a total of 28,165 calls on Monday, as of midnight. For the month of March, the center received over just over 111,000 calls, with an average wait time of six minutes.
That’s far better than call center wait times in late 2013, when short-staffing and a barely functional website severely hampered the enrollment process and left callers on hold, often for hours at a time.
According to the latest numbers published by MNsure, a total of 47,046 Minnesotans have enrolled in a qualified private health plan through the program, while 34,219 have signed up for MinnesotaCare. Another 87,986 individuals signed up for Medical Assistance.
Of those signing up for some type of coverage, 48.3 percent were 44 years of age or younger, while 51.5 percent were between ages 45 and 65.
While the MNsure enrollment figures were encouraging for MNsure officials, the program did fall short of its goal for the number of Minnesotans who would qualify and sign up for private coverage. Back in October, officials had set 69,904 as their goal for private plan enrollment, but the final enrollment tally will apparently fall short of that. Meanwhile, enrollment for Medical Assistance far outpaced the initial estimate of 12,240.
The MNsure comeback reflects a similar trend nationally. While stumbles early on had diminished expectations for the number of people who would sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, in the end, sign-up through both state and federal health insurance exchanges actually exceeded the 7 million person estimate for initial enrollment developed by the Congressional Budget Office.
“I think it’s fair to say we passed everyone’s expectations,” said presidential spokesperson Jay Carney at a White House briefing on Tuesday.
The next open enrollment period for MNsure begins Nov. 1, 2014.