MNsure makes slow progress in first weekDuluth insurance broker Gary Carlson is certified to help people enroll in MNsure, Minnesota’s version of the new health insurance marketplace that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. The number of people he has helped so far?
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth insurance broker Gary Carlson is certified to help people enroll in MNsure, Minnesota’s version of the new health insurance marketplace that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. The number of people he has helped so far?
Carlson and his colleagues at Otis-Magie Insurance Agency on Superior Street have been unable to get far enough into the MNsure website to help clients, he said Friday.
“There is an identification verification process,” Carlson said. “We’ve tried every day since it opened to get into it.”
But he and the four other certified brokers at the agency only try two times apiece each day, he said. If they tried a third time and didn’t get in, they’d be locked out of the system for a week.
“Because of the overload of the system, it’s causing quite a few glitches,” said Carlson, a broker at Otis-Magie for 13 years. “The individual I was speaking with at MNsure was unable to sign up herself.”
April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure executive director, acknowledged it was a rocky first week for the identity proofing service, which comes through the federal government. One of MNsure’s servers failed on Tuesday, and the federal site developed significant issues on Thursday and early Friday, she said.
But by late Friday morning, 90 percent of people who signed on to MNsure were able to get through the identity process, Todd-Malmlov said. By late afternoon it was up to 97 percent.
And on Thursday, the lockout procedure was changed, she said. Now it’s possible to try to get into the identity process six times before being locked out, and the lockout only lasts until the next day.
By the end of MNsure’s first week, close to 5,000 accounts had been created, which Todd-Malmlov said was more than expected.
“I was probably going to be happy with getting 100 in the first week,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Duluth area is inching closer to having so-called navigators certified to help people figure out MNsure at sites such as Community Action Duluth, the Lake Superior Community Health Center’s health-care access office and the Duluth Public Library.
“We’re very close to having folks certified in Duluth,” said Elizabeth Olson, program officer for Generations Health Care Initiatives, which is coordinating local efforts. “Most of the people have been trained.”
Now, it’s a matter of waiting until the state has completed background checks, she said.
The Minnesota Department of Health’s list of certified “assisters” — which includes private insurance brokers as well as the navigators in the public sector — is heavily weighted toward the former. As of Friday afternoon, it included five assisters in Carlton County, one in Cook, two in Lake and 32 in St. Louis, all of whom are insurance brokers.
Brokers were probably certified more quickly because they have already been through background checks, Todd-Malmlov said.
People can check the list by going to mnsure.org and clicking on “assisters.”
Carlson said he has taken calls from a number of people interested in enrolling. He counsels them to wait until the glitches have been worked out. He’s confident that will happen, he said.
“There is time,” Carlson said. “There’s certainly no need for panic.”
People have until Dec. 15 to enroll if they want their insurance to begin on Jan. 1, and open enrollment continues until March 31.
Lynn Newberg said she isn’t in a hurry.
“I’m going to wait until I meet with the navigator,” said Newberg, a Duluth preschool operator who was profiled in a News Tribune story on Sunday.
Last week, Newberg said she was concerned she might never get a navigator’s help. She works from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, and she was told navigators wouldn’t be available past 5 p.m.
Previously uninsurable because she has Type 1 diabetes, Newberg thought she’d need the help to fully understand her options. But this week, the navigator at Community Action Duluth called Newberg and said she could accommodate Newberg’s schedule.
“She said, ‘Sure, I can help,’ and I burst into tears,” Newberg recalled. “Nobody has ever said, ‘Sure, I can help’ about insurance to me.”
The navigator told Newberg she expected to be certified by Oct. 15.
“I told her I can wait,” Newberg said. “I’m a very patient person.”