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Northern Minnesota responsible for influx of MNsure calls

By John Lundy

Forum News Service

DULUTH -- One out of five calls from the public for help with Minnesota’s new online health insurance marketplace is coming from the 218 area code, the program’s director announced Wednesday.

The sprawling but relatively sparsely populated region, which includes Duluth and all of northern Minnesota, is producing more calls than any other area code in the state, said April Todd-Malmlov, executive director of MNsure.

MNsure was set up to help uninsured and underinsured Minnesotans find health plans as part of the Affordable Care Act. The enrollment period for plans acquired through MNsure began Oct. 1 and continues through March 31, although signup must be completed by Dec. 15 for coverage to begin Jan. 1.

The second-highest percentage of calls came from both the 612 and 651 area codes in the Twin Cities area, at 16 percent each, and the lowest was from the 320 area code in central Minnesota, at 9 percent.

At least part of the reason the plurality of calls come from 218 numbers is that this is where the need is greatest, Todd-Malmlov suggested.

“There are definitely parts of that area code that do have the highest levels of uninsurance in the state,” she said.

Northeastern Minnesota has an uninsurance rate of 11 percent, compared with 9 percent statewide, said Jenny Peterson, executive director of Generations Health Care Initiatives, a nonprofit created to improve access to health care in the region.

The region also has a higher percentage of low-income residents than the state as a whole, Peterson said.

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