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Minnesotans show interest in MNsure

ST. PAUL — About 30,000 Minnesotans checked out the MNsure Website the first week the health care exchange was in operation.

That was the news MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov announced Tuesday, minutes from the one-week anniversary of the new method to buy health insurance.

She also announced that a problem nearly a quarter of MNsure’s users faced has been fixed and American Indians may go to and receive full benefits.

MNsure and similar sites around the country have faced numerous glitches in the first week.

The Obama administration said Monday it was fixing software and capacity problems at the main website designed to enroll millions of Americans into new health plans.

On Tuesday, Todd-Malmlov said Minnesota’s problem was a connection with federal computers that verify a person’s identity. She said the fix was expected to be implemented overnight and by this morning all should be working.

"We have worked through that," Todd-Malmlov said.

When MNsure began a week ago, Todd-Malmlov encouraged American Indians to avoid signing up during the first week. They get more federal premium discounts than other Americans, but at launch MNsure was not able to apply all the benefits.

"American Indians can access our site and utilize all of the services that are there," she said Tuesday.

While she will not reveal how many people have bought insurance policies for another week, Todd-Malmlov said about 6,600 Minnesotans have set up accounts.

Minnesotans may window shop for insurance policies without establishing an account, but to find out all the federal premium help available and to actually buy policies they need to set up an account.

About 200 small employers had established accounts as of Tuesday. Large employers may not buy insurance on the exchange, also known as a marketplace.

Besides going on the Website, about 1,000 people a day are contacting the MNsure call center to get information on the exchange, Todd-Malmlov said.

So far, there are few people known as navigators or assisters who are being trained to help people in person. About 1,300 insurance brokers have been trained to help people buy insurance.

MNsure was established as part of federal health care law known as Obamacare to provide a place to compare and buy health insurance policies.

The federal website, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, received 8.6 million unique visitors last week, according to the federal government.

"Our top issue when it comes to the glitches has been the extraordinary number of people coming to check out plans and find out more about Obamacare," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "The number has obviously exceeded expectations."

Reuters news service contributed to this story.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.