MNsure signs month’s worth of customers in two days

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Technology issues are fixed and the state’s MNsure health insurance sales program has enrolled 10,000 Minnesotans, a mark it took almost a month to hit last year.

“We’ve helped more Minnesotans than we have in any two-day period in our history,” MNsure executive Allison O’Toole told reporters Thursday, Nov. 3.

She and Scott Peterson of the state’s information technology agency, known as MN.IT, said an investigation continues into what Gov. Mark Dayton described as an attack on the MNsure telephone system Tuesday, the first day Minnesotans could buy individual health policies for 2017.

The two said 80,000 calls received Tuesday was far above what they expected. Customers’ telephone wait times dropped from an average of more than half an hour Tuesday to six minutes Wednesday to about two minutes Thursday, O’Toole said.

About 1,600 calls were fielded in the first hour Thursday, a fraction of the calls that came in at the same time Tuesday.

Many of the Tuesday calls appeared to come from an automated calling device, known as robocalling. O’Toole said the calling telephone entered the language preferred, but took no other action, even though callers are expected to make other choices on the phone menu.

“This is one of the many anomalies that we are looking at,” Peterson said, without being specific.

The huge call volume meant an unknown number of people who wanted to discuss insurance received a busy signal.

“If someone was playing a game, a lot of Minnesotans were hurt by it,” O’Toole said.

Peterson said that MN.IT has seen no phone problems since Tuesday.

He also said the website has worked well. About 70 state sites, including MNsure.org, sustained outages for a half hour at midday Tuesday. No outside attack is suspected for the web issue, which like the phone problem remains under investigation.

O’Toole called the Tuesday phone event “suspicious,” but Dayton said on Tuesday that it was an intentional attempt to jam up the lines by MNsure opponents.

In the meantime, MNsure has added personnel to its call center and is extending hours.

One reason so many people have bought insurance early in the enrollment period is the state Commerce Department said insurance companies are limiting how many new policies they sell, and state officials encourage people to sign up early before normal policies are sold out.

In all but five counties — Stearns, Benton, Morrison, Mille Lacs and Crow Wing — Blue Cross Blue Shield offers an unlimited number of health maintenance organization plans. However, the plans are more expensive, require higher deductibles and may not pay for patients to go to their regular doctors.

This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. To view the original article, please click here

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