The rate of customer enrollments in the state health insurance exchange has steadily accelerated since its launch at the beginning of October. Through its first two months, MNsure saw 24,586 people select an insurance plan on the exchange website, according to figures released on Wednesday. The new total is more than double the number of completed plan enrollments through the first month of operation.
Perhaps as important as the overall rate of registration, individuals purchasing insurance on the private market signed up at a higher rate in November than October, reaching a total of 4,448 through the end of the month. Consumers who qualify for subsidized coverage under MinnesotaCare total 5,703 of the completed applications, while Medical Assistance – the state’s version of Medicaid – accounts for the remaining 14,405 registrations.
MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov told the MNsure board of directors that the numbers are a good sign of progress to this point, and said she expects finalized applications to increase in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 23 deadline for plans to go into effect on Jan. 1.
The median age of applicants through Nov. 30 is 50, and just 28 percent of the first two months’ new insurance clients are under 30 years old. Those younger consumers are considered an essential element of a well-functioning exchange, as the presence of younger, healthier customers helps to balance risk pools. Todd-Malmlov said the fact the early enrollments skew slightly older should not be cause for concern.
“We do have an older cohort that has come in during these first few months, which is not unusual,” Todd-Malmlov told the MNsure board. “I think you would anticipate [that] the first ones in are likely those that know that they need insurance. They want to make sure that they have it prior to January.”
Todd-Malmlov added that she expected the media age to drop as more consumers join the market during the month of December. Aside from those who have picked a plan and set a payment arrangement, another 44,000 private customer applications have been completed, but those account holders have yet to pick an insurance plan.
The exchange plans to take different approaches to reach those potential consumers in the coming weeks to remind them of the looming registration deadline, including the use of navigators, brokers and marketing. MNsure board member Tom Forsythe wondered aloud if those methods would be sufficient.
“I’m looking to pull people across the goal line, where possible,” Forsythe said. “And I’m not sure marketing is the way to do it. It helps, obviously.”
Later in the board meeting, Todd-Malmlov addressed one of the ongoing issues that has dogged MNsure. The exchange will double the number of employees answering phone queries at its call center during the final push before the Jan. 1 effective date, thanks partly to a loan of some MinnesotaCare call center workers from the Department of Human Services.
Also Wednesday, MNsure announced another round of grant awards. The exchange selected 12 organizations to receive a combined $833,000 for community outreach work. The grants are meant to respond to earlier complaints that the first round of outreach grants left out groups that have strong relationships with minority communities.