MNsure sets sign-up record, Hennepin Tech helps
In a packed room in downtown St. Paul Thursday morning, MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole shared the latest figures on MNsure's open enrollment.

"Minnesota set a new enrollment record with a total of 117,654 enrollments in the individual market," O'Toole said.

That figure is a 34 percent increase, breaking the state record set during last year's open enrollment period.

"An amazing 96 percent of Minnesotans are now covered and protected from crushing medical bills and health ailments," O'Toole said.

O'Toole was surrounded by a group of people tasked with helping Minnesotans get signed up for MNsure.

"We are, I think, leading the way in terms of colleges who are providing a MNsure navigator on the college campus," said Jessica Lauritsen, director of student life and career development at Hennepin Technical College.

Lauritsen was joined in St. Paul by Brenna Hucka, Hennepin Tech's student life and health coordinator.

"I saw at least three to five people in the last week," Hucka said. "Now, that's not a ton, but some appointments can take an hour to an hour-plus."

Hucka helped students at the Eden Prairie and Brooklyn Park campuses navigate MNsure during the open-enrollment period, and they came to her with plenty of questions and concerns.

"There were definitely students, when we put out information, they were like, 'well I'm not going to bother because it's not going to be here,'" Hucka said. "Well, we don't know that. We don't know what exactly is going to happen with it."

That was the thought looming over the heads of every one of the MNsure navigators and staff members who gathered to learn about the new enrollment totals. Officials attribute the spike in part to uncertainty over the federal health care law.

"Like all of you, we're watching what's happening in Washington, and at the state Capitol," O'Toole said. "And believe me, it's just as unclear to us as it is to you."

But with a record number of people enrolled, many here think that sends a clear message to lawmakers who want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

"I'm hopeful that we'll still have this option for Minnesotans and all of the people in the U.S. that need health coverage," Lauritsen said.

Open enrollment generally lasts three months, but that was extended this year by a week to give people extra time to tap into special state government rebates. Another 1,500 people signed up through MNsure during the extra week.

Delane Cleveland

Feb. 9, 2017


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