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MNsure's online exchange gets poor evaluation

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MNsure, Minnesota's state health insurance exchange, is in need of major improvements to be ready for the next wave of consumers who will buy coverage through the system later this year, according to a consultant hired to evaluate its performance.

Deloitte Consulting, which was hired by MNsure to recommend improvements to the system, reviewed 73 functions that consumers should encounter on the website, and found that only about one-third of them are performing as they should, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Many of those functions need to be in place in time for the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov.15, Deloitte said in a report it presented to the MNsure board Wednesday.

The report says three areas are especially critical:

– The system doesn't accept changes in enrollee circumstances, such as getting married or having a child;

– People covered by Medicaid and MinnesotaCare can't renew their coverage through MNsure;

– People who've bought commercial insurance can't renew their policies through the system.

Those were already top priorities and work "is already underway to ensure these functions are operational," MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said, according to MPR News.

The state launched MNsure to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires everyone to have health insurance. The MNsure rollout earlier this year was fraught with technical problems and resulted in long wait times for many consumers when they tried to sign up.

In response, MNsure added staff and made other improvements to the system, but there are still problems. Deloitte was hired in April for nearly $5 million to advise the board on how to fix the troubled website.

By the end of the first enrollment period, more than 240,000 Minnesotans signed up for health insurance coverage through MNsure.

Gov. Mark Dayton did not respond directly to the critique laid out in the report Wednesday afternoon, saying he hadn't yet read it. But he said the health exchange is still good for the state, the Star Tribune reports.

"Despite all those deficiencies and all the problems, we’ve got 40 percent fewer uninsured Minnesotans," the governor said. "That’s a remarkable success considering some of the problems that everybody is well aware of."

MPR News notes a bit of irony in the situation. Two years ago, MNsure negotiated with Deloitte to serve as its general contractor but Deloitte's bid was $20 million over what the state decided to spend. Now the state is contracting with the same company because of its success in launching health exchange websites in other states.

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