ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC/AP) -- The deadline to sign up for health insurance or risk facing tax penalties came and went at midnight Monday. But during the day on Monday, the sheer volume of people trying to sign up through MNsure caused problems. That pushed call centers to capacity.
John Annen has been without health insurance for three months, and when he came to Three Rivers Community Action for help completing his MNsure sign up, things went from high tech to low tech in a matter of minutes.
"Now, we're going to go on to the paper method," said Colleen Hansen.
Hansen is a MNsure navigator, and she's been helping people like Annen through the process of signing up through the exchange for months.
Lately, she says the site that had been plagued with technical problems was working fine, until it was down to the wire.
"At 11 o'clock it started not loading the site, so I've been doing paper applications this afternoon," Hansen said Monday.
She's also been doing the other step MNsure recommends, helping her clients who can't get through online or over the phone with the process of filling out the Enrollment Attempt Form.
"That holds their place in line," she said.
The Enrollment Attempt Form is enough to qualify for an extension and avoid those possible tax penalties, but right now MNsure makes no guarantee about exactly how long it will take to enroll everyone on that list.
"It just says that with the enrollment attempt form that they will be contacted after to complete the process," said Hansen.
The tax penalties will go up every year.
In 2014 the penalty is $95 for adults or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is more.
Next year it goes up to $325 or 2 percent of your taxable income.
In 2016, $695 or 2.5 percent.
A maximum penalty would be calculated based on premiums for plans offered through MNsure.
So with hours left before the deadline, when Annen left Three Rivers, he may not have actually had health insurance, but he knew he was protected come tax time next year.
"Now I'm signed up," Annen said. "Legally it's not my mess up. It's somebody that's down the line's."
As of Friday, more than 152,000 Minnesotans had enrolled in private insurance plans or qualified for government-subsidized public plans.
Most people who fail to enroll will have to wait for the next open enrollment period to open this fall. However, people eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, members of American Indian tribes and small businesses can still enroll year-round.
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