News : MNsure Call Center Waits Average 67 Minutes
Jan 15, 2014 -- Wait-times at the MNsure call center again exceeded one hour Wednesday as the deadline passed for people seeking commercial coverage that starts Feb. 1.
The deadline was something of an afterthought compared with the intense focus on Dec. 31 as a deadline for people seeking health insurance that started with the new year.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, there were about 2,400 calls and an average wait of 67 minutes, said Jenni Bowring-McDonough, a MNsure spokeswoman.
Leading up to the Dec. 31 deadline, the average waits were as long as two hours as call center operators handled more than 3,000 calls on the busiest days.
Minnesota launched the MNsure health exchange last year to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires almost all Americans this year to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. People can avoid penalties if they obtain coverage by March.
For weeks, MNsure users have been frustrated by lengthy call center waits and problems with the health exchange website.
That includes Joe Kessler, 36, of Walker, who said Wednesday that long wait-times have compounded his frustration over not being able to pay his premium online despite numerous efforts.
Kessler and his wife tried to get coverage finalized before Dec. 31, when they were told they would have insurance through the state's MinnesotaCare program, he said in an interview. But a subsequent notice said the family would not qualify for the program, Kessler said, so they selected a commercial insurance plan that would start Feb. 1.
For the policy to start in February, however, the family had to have paid by Wednesday.
"Since we picked our plan over a week ago, we have not been able to pay MNsure," he wrote in an email Wednesday to the Pioneer Press. "The MNsure site doesn't allow us to pay online due to a system issue."
Bowring-McDonough said in a statement Wednesday that she wasn't aware of a system issue that prevented people from making payments but was checking on the issue. She didn't immediately respond to a question about whether some users in late December were receiving incorrect eligibility determinations.
Previously, state officials have apologized for a number of website and call center problems. In late December, they suggested that some might want to purchase coverage directly from health insurance companies rather than through the government-run marketplace.
Last week, MNsure said it was falling short of enrollment goals for people using MNsure to buy private policies. The health exchange already has exceeded its goal, however, for enrolling people who are newly eligible for Medical Assistance, which is the state's version of the state-federal Medicaid program.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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