Posted at: 10/01/2013 9:10 PM
Updated at: 10/01/2013 10:15 PM
By: Travis Dill
Online health insurance exchanges serving Northland residents got running on Tuesday despite a partial federal government shutdown tied to the law that created them.
States could set up their own online exchange or leave it up to the federal government. Minnesotans have seen Paul Bunyan advertising the state's option for over a month.
Officials said the MNsure website saw over 100,000 visitors on Tuesday as the health exchange rolled out just after 3 p.m. The state spent $110 million of federal money to set it up, and officials expect 1 in 5 Minnesotans to use it.
Officials said some server issues were being fixed Tuesday evening, but 500 accounts were set up in the first hour the exchange was online. The wait until afternoon was scheduled and not a delay according to MNsure officials.
Many states, like Wisconsin and Michigan, are relying on a federal website as their health exchange. CEP Inc. workforce centers in Northwest Wisconsin are training to help residents find suitable insurance on the website, however, Chief Operating Officer Brad Gingras said with 36 states trying to log in delays were expected.
“It's not a surprise to me to know that the website might be bogged down. The best advice I can offer anyone is to be patient. Try nontraditional hours of logging in whether that be earlier in the morning or later in the evening. You'll probably have better luck at that time, but be patient,” Gingras said.
He said there is plenty of time to get coverage. Users of both MNsure and the federal exchange have until Dec. 15 to enroll for coverage that starts on Jan. 1, 2014.
Minnesota will also have trained navigators throughout the state, and some can be found in Duluth at the Superior Street public library.
Officials said a list of the assisters should be on the MNsure website by Wednesday.