Minnesota residents who buy health insurance on the individual market have until Wednesday to enroll in the state-run health care exchange if they want to be covered by Jan. 1.

Minnesota residents who buy health insurance on the individual market have until Wednesday to enroll in the state-run health care exchange if they want to be covered by Jan. 1.

MNsure will have extended hours at its call center and 24-hour online availability as the deadline approaches, The Pioneer Press reported . Residents have until Jan. 14 to pick a plan, but coverage won't begin until Feb. 1.

The state set up a 10-week enrollment window after consulting with providers and health care advocates, said Allison O'Toole, MNsure's CEO. The federal health care exchange program, which is used in 38 states that don't have their own exchanges, was only open for six weeks.

"The bottom line is we heard that Minnesotans need more time so we added a month at the end," O'Toole said.

MNsure officials believe the program will see about a 5 percent increase in customers this year. There have been more than 110,000 since Nov. 1. The program had about 17,000 new customers who had signed up as of last week.

Program officials plan to upgrade software used to manage customer data early next year in order to improve the shopping experience.

"It's working," O'Toole said of the current software system. "We are having the smoothest open-enrollment period so far."

The program allows Minnesota residents to get insurance on the individual market rather than through their employer. Residents can also qualify for a tax break through the program.

Low-income residents also use MNsure to determine if they're eligible for government insurance programs like Medicaid and MinnesotaCare.