There are a lot of horror stories out there about those who have been confused, frustrated and fed up while trying to get coverage through MNsure, the state’s new online health insurance exchange.

Last year’s launch of the system was fraught with delays, website glitches and application errors.

Thankfully, this year’s open enrollment period, which began November 15 and runs through February 15, is going more smoothly. It’s still early, of course, but MNsure’s attempts to improve the system appear to be paying off.

For starters, there are 300 people now working in the call center, compared to 22 last year. As a result, waiting times are averaging less than a minute.

How state leaders thought the system could function with so few people manning the phones is shocking, but at least MNSure recognized this and other problems and took action. Besides beefing up the call center, the website has been improved and there is more support available to help enrollees.

MNsure officials, to their credit, recently launched three new tools that are designed to make it easier for people to find answers and options to meet their own unique health insurance needs.

Searchable Assister Directory. The directory, found on the MNsure.org homepage, is a list of all MNsure assisters ready to help new clients enroll in health insurance coverage for 2015. These assisters may be navigators or licensed insurance brokers. Navigators are trained to provide free face-to-face application and enrollment assistance. A licensed agent or broker can go one step further and provide assistance and advice to help consumers select an insurance plan. The directory is searchable by county, city, zip code and spoken language. A search of Douglas County, for instance, provides a list of six assisters.

New Enrollment Events Calendar. MNsure launched a new enrollment calendar late last week. It’s on the MNsure.org homepage and is searchable by date, region, zip code and event type. Certified MNsure navigators and brokers can submit new enrollment events through the online calculator in real time, meaning the calendar is always up-to-date with enrollment opportunities across the state.

Pop-up “Enrollment Centers.” MNsure has partnered with six health insurance agencies and navigator organizations across the state to offer collaborative enrollment assistance. Certified agents and navigators will work together to answer questions, recommend plan selection and help complete enrollment. Whether consumers qualify for a public health care program or a private insurance plan, Minnesotans can schedule an appointment or request walk-in hours.

Most of the centers are in the metro area but there is one in Willmar: Health Insurance Services, Inc., 1604 South First Street, Willmar; (320) 235-2500; www. healthinsuranceservices.org.

The initial delays and problems with MNsure were unfortunate and head-shaking, but the system appears to be making some progress and that’s something for which to be thankful.

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