MNsure: Quarter Million Enrolled for Health Insurance Through Minnesota's Online Marketplace

When available, localized data will allow the coalition to target uninsured people even more specifically. For now, statewide numbers will have to suffice.

by Brady Slater, McClatchy News Service / July 2, 2014

In numbers released Monday, MNsure said more than a quarter of a million Minnesotans have enrolled for health care through its online health insurance marketplace that arose following passage of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010.

For Jenny Peterson, executive director of Generations Health Care Initiatives, it’s an impressive number — 251,592 — but one she’s eager to see hyper-localized.

“We haven’t been able to get local numbers yet,” said Peterson, whose agency is based in Duluth. “But our navigators have been very busy, especially during open enrollment periods and even after.”

Peterson’s organization serves as the coordinator for insureDuluth, a coalition of 17 agencies in the Northland working together to expand enrollment through MNsure. The coalition includes both Essentia Health and St. Luke’s Health Care System, among a host of non-profits and other agencies.

When available, localized data will allow the coalition to target uninsured people even more specifically.

“We’ll be able to judge our effectiveness, and, hopefully, use ZIP code data to find out where we need to be spending more time,” Peterson said.

For now, statewide numbers will have to suffice.

Even though the most recent open enrollment closed March 31, “we are maintaining about 1,000 new enrollments every day,” said Scott Leitz, chief operating officer of MNsure.

Presently, only those experiencing a qualifying life event, such as pregnancy or job loss, and those who are eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, members of federally-recognized Native American tribes or participants in the Small Business Health Options Program, are eligible to enroll. The next open enrollment period is Nov. 15 through Feb. 15, 2015.

The number of uninsured Minnesotans fell by 180,500 between Sept. 30, 2013, and May 1, 2014, from 445,000 to 264,500 — a reduction from 8.2 percent of the state population to 4.9 percent, a record low.

“It means a great many people have been taking advantage of health coverage opportunities,” Peterson said. “The fact that we’re filling up our navigators’ time slots is a good indicator we are making progress.”

InsureDuluth offers navigators in several neighborhoods, including at CHUM and the public library, as well as outreach workers to identify and enroll those who remain uninsured.

The coalition approach helped the Duluth area reach residents in a variety of ways, including using the United Way of Greater Duluth’s 2-1-1 service to direct users to the nearest navigator.

“To my knowledge, we’re the only ones using a coalition approach,” Peterson said. “We have a very collaborative spirit with nonprofits and health care providers.

“We knew we could be stronger together than each individual organization doing enrollments on our own,” Peterson said.

In related health care news Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported an increase of 4 percent in health care spending to $39.8 billion from 2011 to 2012. The report looks at all health care spending, including private health insurance, out-of-pocket spending, state public programs and Medicare.

The report also contained projections of health care spending to estimate future spending trends, including the impact of the Affordable Care Act and Minnesota health reforms.

Projected health care spending will reach $76.4 billion by 2022, an average annual growth of 6.7 percent. A small portion of this growth is expected to be driven by anticipated growth in coverage and health care use due to the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Health care spending for the newly insured is projected to increase total spending by about $1.8 billion in 2016, the year when analysts expect changes in coverage to stabilize.

©2014 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.)