By Don Davis
Minnesotans rushing to meet the new MNsure signup deadline of next Tuesday should take a breath, slow down a bit and read directions.
Officials of the state’s new health insurance sales website say mistakes like typing an extra space and inputting an entire middle name instead of just an initial are holding up some customers’ attempts to buy policies.
“The majority of MNsure users are able to sign up and enroll for a health plan on MNsure.org, but a significant number of people have run into problems with the website,” interim MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said. “Some of the problems people are facing are due to software issues that we are actively working on and will be resolving in the near future, but some of the issues can be resolved at the consumer level.”
Key to a successful MNsure application is to follow instructions carefully.
MNsure users need to have the latest Firefox, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer browsers. Other browsers and older versions may not work.
Also, MNsure does not work on smartphones or tablets, only desktop computers and laptops.
MNsure is a website that sells private companies’ health policies. Customers have a variety of plans they can compare and buy online. They also may seek out local helpers to get them through the process.
Questions may be answered at (855) 366-7873, although waits of up to two hours have been reported.
The call center was to be closed 3 p.m. Tuesday through Christmas, but the website was to remain available.
MNsure.org is available to compare and buy policies from 6 a.m. to midnight every day. The call center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
While Dec. 31 is the deadline for getting insurance at the beginning of 2014, MNsure’s open enrollment period stretches to March 31.
The new deadline applies only to individual and family policies. Small businesses using MNsure to supply policies on Jan. 1 already must have bought them.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he has monitored MNsure’s progress since summer, but stepped it up when problems began to multiply this fall. He held a private conference call with MNsure officials Monday and plans another one Friday.
Problems that have concerned MNsure officials and politicians include a balky website and a call center with long waits. MNsure officials say both are being fixed.
Here are some of the tips MNsure offers:
— If a computer shows some type of error, try clearing the history or cache or change browser. In some cases, the user must start a new application.
— If the “next” or “continue” is not shown on the screen, the page may be too big. Put the cursor in a blank area of the screen and hit “tab” once or twice, or use control-hyphen.
— A telephone number should have the area code within parentheses with no space before the rest of the number. Street addresses should not contain abbreviations.
— Passwords must be at least 8 characters long, and contain at least one number, one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter and one special character such as an exclamation point, dollar sign or percentage symbol.
— There can be no hyphens or periods in names, even hyphenated names.
— When a user receives an “enrolled and paid but application pending” message, it means the insurance company will send a packet via mail.
— To pay on the website, click on “go to my account” and then “pay my premium.” MNsure officials recommend paying via credit card to speed the process.