MNsure extends enrollment deadline to Saturday
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans will have an extra five days to shop for coverage effective Jan. 1 on the state's health insurance exchange. MNsure announced Monday it has extended its enrollment deadline to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday as a response to market ...
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans will have an extra five days to shop for coverage effective Jan. 1 on the state’s health insurance exchange.
MNsure announced Monday it has extended its enrollment deadline to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday as a response to market timing changes. Monday was the original deadline to enroll in coverage effective Jan. 1.
“We want to give Minnesotans that qualify for financial help as much time as possible to enroll in January 1 coverage,” MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said in a statement.
Deadlines for health care coverage that would begin Feb. 1 and March 1 have not changed.
Unlike last year’s extensions, this one is unrelated to technical glitches or overwhelming call volumes, MNsure officials said. Rather, it is in response to deadline extensions announced by insurance providers over the weekend for coverage sold outside of the exchange.
“This creates some confusion for customers,” Leitz said during a Monday press conference. “As a result, we are extending our deadline. … This ensures that the lowest cost plans will be available to consumers longer and that people don’t leave any money on the table.”
HealthPartners and BlueCross BlueShield announced on Friday that they would extend their enrollment deadlines for coverage effective Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Both cited higher-than-expected call volumes as a reason for doing so.
PreferredOne - which dropped out of MNsure this year - did not extend its enrollment deadline. A Medica spokesman said his company’s off-exchange coverage effective Jan. 1 has always been available until Dec. 31.
Leitz did not rule out further exchange deadline extensions, saying that MNsure continues to talk with insurance providers about the issue.
By noon on Friday, MNsure had enrolled more than 33,000 Minnesotans since open enrollment began on Nov. 15, including more than 14,000 in private health plans.
The agency expanded its hours and brought in extra staff to handle an expected rush over the weekend and Monday before the initial deadline.
Although MNsure officials did not offer an update on enrollment numbers Monday, Leitz said he believes the exchange is on track to meet enrollment goals.
MNsure earlier this month lowered its 2015 projections for private health plans. The exchange is now expected to have enrolled about 67,000 Minnesotans in qualified private health plans by the end of 2015 -- this would allow it to meet its budget.
Leitz said the MNsure system is stable and that most users have been able to work with the website “without issue.”
Although call volume is high - about 30 calls per minute at 2 p.m. Monday - Leitz said wait times have been reasonable, averaging about 20 minutes. However, reports of hour-long wait times persist.
“We anticipated that on deadline day we were going to see some spikes in wait times,” he said, adding that this year’s wait times have been a dramatic improvement over last year, when customers routinely waited 90 minutes.
MNsure has grown its call center staff to 300 people from 22 last year.
The exchange was plagued by a host of problems during its inaugural open enrollment period in late 2013. In addition to call center delays, shoppers last year experienced miscalculated tax credits and website outages. The troubles culminated in the abrupt resignation of former CEO April Todd-Malmlov.
“What a difference a year makes,” MNsure board chair Brian Beutner said during Monday’s press conference.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service