ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s health insurance exchange saw a sizable last-minute spike in enrollment ahead of a deadline for coverage that took effect with the new year.
MNsure released its latest enrollment figures Friday. By the Dec. 31 deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, the agency reported that 67,805 Minnesotans had enrolled for insurance under the new federal health care law.
That means more than 14,600 people signed up for coverage in the last four days of December. As of Dec. 27, MNsure had reported that about 53,000 people had signed up. It reflects a last-minute rush by many to lock down coverage, after many experienced technical glitches with the MNsure website and long waits for help on the toll-free helpline.
Of the 67,805 who signed up, about 38 percent enrolled in private insurance plans. The rest signed up for the state’s two public insurance programs, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. MNsure stressed that the latest enrollment figures are preliminary and could change later this month as more data become available.
What’s not immediately clear is how many Minnesotans who wanted insurance by Jan. 1 failed to get it. MNsure officials had acknowledged in the days leading up to the deadline that the persistent technical glitches had left at least a few thousand peoples’ applications stalled in the system. The agency said it would work with insurance companies to accommodate people whose applications might have been hung up through no fault of their own.
MNsure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough was not able Friday to identify how many people failed to get insurance but had said that figure might be available at some point.
Those who did get insurance starting Jan. 1 have until Jan. 10 to pay for it. People who want coverage starting Feb. 1 have until Jan. 15 to sign up. And open enrollment extends to the end of March, after which people who are still uninsured will face tax penalties.
Studies have found about 300,000 Minnesotans lacked insurance coverage prior to the implementation of the new federal law. MNsure is not tracking how many of its enrollees were previously uninsured.
MNsure’s interim CEO, Scott Leitz, said he was pleased to see the last-minute jump in enrollment, especially given MNsure’s well-publicized technical problems. “Our job in the weeks ahead will be to make it easier for more people to do the same,” Leitz said.
Still, the technical challenges persist. Account applications at the MNsure.org website were unavailable for a number of hours Thursday, and were going down again for maintenance starting at 8 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday.