- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Callers to Minnesota’s health insurance exchange are experiencing longer waits this week as the deadline for open enrollment approaches.

As expected, MNsure is experiencing an upsurge in calls as residents try to sign up for coverage before the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline.

“We’re urging people not to wait until the last minute. The sooner you call the better,” MNsure spokesman John Schadl said Thursday.

People concerned about wait times should call early in the day over the weekend, he said.

MNsure’s call center had received nearly 1,400 calls as of 1 p.m. Thursday, and callers were experiencing average waits of just under eight minutes, Schadl said. That’s about what waits have averaged this week, up from 90 seconds two weeks ago. But he said calls are typically answered within a couple minutes, then put on hold until a representative is available.

The waits are a considerable improvement from last fall and December, however, when callers would spend an hour or more on hold. MNsure has more than doubled its call center staff and hired a contractor to handle overflow calls since then, Schadl said.

MNsure reported Wednesday that it has enrolled more than 148,000 people since Oct. 1.

Consumers who start the enrollment process but cannot complete it by the deadline will get reprieves.

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