As MNsure nears the end of its first open enrollment period, one thing’s for sure: it’s been an interesting ride. Little has come easily over the past six months.
The media has been dominated with stories about MNsure’s failures. Some of those critiques are certainly deserved. As a Navigator, I’ve encountered some serious issues, particularly with delays or errors in processing my clients’ applications. There have also been challenges with MNsure’s leadership, budget, IT structure… you name it, it’s been tough. My optimism has wavered at times. But I don’t think the news reports have given as much as attention to the bright spots—and there certainly are some. As we close in on March 31, here’s some of the good news:
Things are getting better for customers. The website is more functional. Call-center hold times are drastically lower. At least in my anecdotal experience, applications seem to be getting processed more quickly and accurately. There is certainly still a lot of room for improvement, but there’s progress.
Enrollment is picking up. Though we don’t have the full numbers just yet, the latest word was that MNsure is enrolling 1,000 people a day. They may actually hit the initial enrollment target (135,000 people), though with more people enrolled in public plans than anticipated.
Consumers are saving money. To me, this is the most significant high point so far. Most of my clients are very happy with the plan cost and coverage they find on MNsure. Some are able to afford health insurance for the first time in years. Others had prior coverage, but their new plans will save them hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year (this is even true for many enrollees who aren’t receiving any financial assistance).
Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not these affordable insurance rates will remain just as affordable next year. No one can say for certain who the new enrollees are, what medical care they will use, or how much that care will cost. Will better access to insurance lower healthcare costs long-term? We hope so, but we may not see the full downstream effects for years. The Affordable Care Act represents an enormous change to the healthcare market, and it may take a while for things to settle out.
There’s still room for improvement. MNsure still faces significant challenges in several areas, and the news about newly-affordable insurance still hasn’t reached everyone. This is the beginning of the road, not the end. I hope that we can all withhold final judgment until we get a little further down this path.