Tech Problems Plague Minnesota Exchange

MacIver News Service | December 20, 2013

[St. Paul, Minn.] Setting up its own state-based health insurance exchange does not seem to have spared Minnesotans from any of the online drama plaguing users of the federal site,

Supporters of Obamacare have constantly held up Minnesota as its premier success story. The state did everything President Obama wanted it to do for health insurance reform. It expanded Medicaid, set up its own website, and supposedly has some of the lowest health insurance rates in the country (although the MacIver Institute proved that claim is based on questionable data.)

Despite the national accolades however, MNsure has been plagued by technical and security problems no different from the fed’s website.

“Security flaws, website errors, incorrect tax credit information, and other problems have continued to plague MNsure since its launch on October 1st. As of today, we’re not aware of a single insurance card that has been mailed to anyone who has enrolled through the MNsure website,” Rep. Kurt Daudt (R), Minnesota’s House Minority Leader said in a statement Wednesday.

This week MNsure’s CEO, April Todd-Malmlov, suddenly resigned amidst the controversy. Her problems were compounded by a two-week vacation she took last month while concerns mounted that MNsure was not prepared for the January 1st effective date for new plans.

MNsure’s board chair, Brian Beutner, said in a press release that “the organization is at a stage where it needs a CEO to manage both MNsure’s current challenges and position it for greater success in the future.”

And so Scott Leitz, an assistant commissioner from the Department of Human Services, was brought in as interim CEO.

“MNsure must do better. If there are problems or mistakes, we will acknowledge them and fix them,” Leitz said. “I look forward to working with MNsure’s talented team to make MNsure work for the people of Minnesota.”

“This change will position MNsure to focus on both the short-term need to fix key technology issues and its long-term mission of enrolling as many Minnesotans as possible in affordable healthcare,” Jenni Bowring-McDonough, Media Relations Coordinator, wrote in a release.

Currently about 1,100 applications are lost in MNsure’s systems. An army of tech support workers from IBM (which is headquartered in Rochester, MN) have been brought in to fix the website’s bugs in what is being called a “Tech Surge.”

IBM was one of the main contractors responsible for the website. The company was paid about $4 million for its previous work on the website out of the $150 million federal loan the state received to build it. IBM, reportedly, is not charging for the extra help its providing.

MNsure plans to eventually serve 1.2 million people in Minnesota (20 percent of the population). Almost half a million people in that state did not have insurance in 2011, according to MNsure. As of Wednesday, the exchange was claiming 97,573 people had applied.

Monday, December 23rd, is the deadline to sign up and pay for Obamacare coverage that starts on January 1st. Minnesota state officials are discussing the possibility of extending that deadline.