Division of United Health to review troubled MNsure exchange

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A division of Minnetonka-based United Health Group will conduct a review of the problems with the state's troubled health insurance exchange.

The Pioneer Press reports Optum will conduct a preliminary review of the website without a contract. The newspaper reports Optum was recommended for the job by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

MNsure's interim executive director Scott Leitz said Optum played an important role in helping address the problem's with the federal government's version at healthcare.gov. It also has helped to address problems on the health exchange websites run by three other states.

Leitz told the Pioneer Press, "Secretary Sebelius, when she talked with Gov. Dayton, spoke very highly of (Optum's) efforts on the federal side."

The state has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks as troubles with the site have continued. Minnesota's Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles began an audit of those problems with the site this week.

In an interview with WCCO, Nobles said the rollout has failed in many ways.

The Business Journal reports that Nobles and his staff will specifically look into the performance of vendors like IBM Corp.'s Curam Software and Maximus Inc.

Governor Dayton blasted IBM's software in a letter last week. The governor outlined 21 areas where state officials determined the software was deficient.

Not only have problems with the site continued, but consumers have endured long wait times while waiting for help from the health exchange call center.

The Star Tribune reports that Leitz told the MNsure board he will address those problems by hiring more call center operators and accepting more paper applications. MNsure plans to add 12 workers to the call center staff. According to the Star Tribune, call volumes have decreased some, but the average wait time is still around an hour.

Leitz said some customers won't be able to secure coverage ahead of the March 31 federal deadline using the website and will need to file a paper application, according to the Associated Press. Leitz said, "First and foremost, we want people to use the online system. But we want to be honest: There's going to be folks who aren't going to be able to."

Consumers have until Friday to have a payment either to MNsure or the health insurer for coverage that began Jan. 1. Those who want coverage starting in February have a Jan. 15 deadline to use the website to enroll in a plan and pay the premium.

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