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Legislative auditor opening probe into MNsure launch

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Minnesota's legislative auditor said Monday that he plans to investigate the problems surrounding the launch of MNsure, the Star Tribune reports.

Jim Nobles' office is expected to launch the audit Tuesday morning at the state Department of Commerce, which handled the flow of federal funds to build the website for the state's new health insurance exchange, the paper says.

The investigation will first look into whether IT vendors delivered what they promised in building the MNsure website. It will also investigate whether the state kept a close enough eye on the work that was being done.

Various technical problems have plagued the MNsure website since its launch Oct. 1. Minnesotans were given until Dec. 31 to submit their applications to MNsure in order for coverage to begin New Year's Day.

Last week, MNsure's call center was overwhelmed by frustrated consumers as the deadline approached. The site was shut down over the weekend after more technical issues shut down the site for several hours Thursday.

The Star Tribune says the state received $46 million in federal grants to hire contractors to build the site. In all, the state received more than $155 million in federal dollars for the launch of MNsure since 2011, which also covered staffing and marketing.

According to the Pioneer Press, about $70 million was spent in the 12-month period that ended in June, and the size of that expenditure automatically triggers an audit, Nobles said Monday.

"Given all of the problems that have occurred, I think everybody deserves a thorough, independent examination of what went wrong," Nobles said.

The first phase of the audit could take as long as four months, Nobles said. He also plans to bring a team of IT experts on in March or April to examine MNsure's security features, the Star Tribune says.

MNsure is part of the federal government's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Under the Affordable Care Act, uninsured people have until March 31 to secure coverage and avoid a tax penalty.

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