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MNsure promises better website when enrollment begins next month

By Nick Woltman / St. Paul Pionneer Press

St. PAUL – Shoppers on the MNsure health insurance exchange will encounter a much improved user experience when open enrollment begins next month, officials said Wednesday.

The state-run exchange was plagued by glitches with its website and an overwhelmed call center during last year’s open enrollment period.

Managers from the state’s information technology agency told the exchange’s board of directors Wednesday that extensive testing is underway on a retooled website. The site is 75 percent faster and boasts page-load times of two seconds, officials said. And MNsure has increased its call center staff to 300 people from 22 last year.

The 2015 open enrollment period will run from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15 – about half as long as the 2014 open enrollment period.

The board Wednesday adopted a balanced 2015 budget for the operation of the exchange and shifted its fiscal year to align it with those of other state agencies.

MNsure had previously budgeted according to the calendar year; other state agencies base their budgets on a fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30. Because MNsure shares resources with these agencies – including accounting services – the move made sense, MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said.

Leitz doesn’t expect the change to cost the agency any money, or result in significant savings.

“This is purely about how we monitor our finances as an organization,” he said.

The exchange’s fiscal year 2015 budget allocates $32.7 million for technological improvements to the MNsure system, $22.7 million for customer service and $10.7 million in administrative costs. Because of the adjusted fiscal year, the new budget covers July 2014 through June 2015.

To meet the budget, MNsure will need to enroll 50,000 new people in private health plans in 2015, which would bring total private enrollment through the exchange over the 100,000 mark. Total enrollment through the exchange tops 350,000.

MNsure collects a 1.5 percent fee on premiums paid by private policyholders who enrolled through the exchange. Beginning in 2015, the agency will collect a 3.5 percent fee and must be self-sustaining – that is, fully funded without federal grant money.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.