State health exchange opens a bit lateThe market is open.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
The market is open.
While technical problems delayed Tuesday’s initial launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges, Minnesota’s version of the program was up and running by late afternoon.
“We are live. The
MNsure website is up,” said Jeni Bowring-McDonough, agency spokeswoman.
Various local versions of the health insurance exchange were scheduled to launch on Tuesday morning in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But several states encountered delays or glitches, the Associated Press reported.
Although MNsure wasn’t able to enroll anyone on Tuesday morning, both its website and its phone lines were up. A call to the phone line — (855) 366-7873 — placed by the News Tribune was answered on Tuesday morning after 11 minutes on hold. By 5 p.m., the wait time had increased to almost 24 minutes, according to a phone line recorded message.
While figures for
MNsure were not immediately available, the national health exchange website reported 2.8 million visits by late Tuesday afternoon, and 81,000 phone calls to its offices, according to a statement from Healthcare.gov.
But individuals who want the assistance of trained helpers — known as “navigators” — will have to wait a bit longer.
None of the navigators in Duluth or Superior was certified by the end of the day on Tuesday, said Jessica Crowley of the health-care access office at the Lake Superior Community Health Center, which serves both cities. Crowley, who will be one of five navigators in that office, is able to help people with questions about Minnesota Care and Medical assistance, she said, but not with MNsure. Minnesota Care is a pre-existing version of the Medicaid program, which serves low-income residents.
That could change for Crowley and several other navigators by the end of the week, Crowley said. It depends on how fast the state processes background checks that were turned in last week.
In addition to the health-care access office, navigators will be in place at Community Action Duluth, the Duluth Public Library, the Salvation Army and CHUM, said Jenny Peterson, executive director of Generations Health Care Initiatives, a Duluth nonprofit devoted to increasing access to health insurance.
The best way to learn when and where navigators are available is to call 211, the United Way information and referral center, Peterson said.
Wisconsin residents should use the federal website at healthcare.gov. The phone number is (800) 318-2596. The health insurance marketplace isn’t affected by the partial federal government shutdown.
In the Superior area, residents also can contact the health-care access office in the Superior branch of the Lake Superior Community Health Center at (715) 392-1955.
Peterson encouraged people not to rush. The insurance plans don’t begin until Jan. 1, and enrollment continues through March 31.
“We would recommend that people wait for a while and especially wait until we have some navigators available,” Peterson said.