ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — More Minnesota residents are qualifying for financial help this year to buy coverage on the state's health insurance exchange.

MNsure announced Monday that more than 70 percent of the customers buying private insurance so far this month have received federal subsidies. That's up from roughly 50 percent last year.

The exchange is pitching those subsidies as a major selling point in a year when health insurance premiums are spiking. MNsure chief executive Allison O'Toole says the subsidies can offset or even erase premium hikes that range as high as 40-plus percent.

MNsure had sold nearly 6,700 private health plans as of Nov. 17. Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and will continue through the end of January.