'Failures outweigh achievements': An auditor's scathing verdict on MNsure

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In a scathing report on MNsure's performance in its first year, the state's legislative auditor says the failures of Minnesota's health insurance exchange outweighed its achievements, and has called for sweeping changes to the way it's managed.

The launch of MNsure in 2013 was beset by technical glitches that frustrated consumers trying to sign up for health plans.

Now, in a review of the exchange's first year, it is slammed by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, which has called for greater government involvement following a series of failures.

Those failures include:

  • Failing to adequately test the website before launching it, and only seeking "limited advice" from experts at Minnesota's state IT department despite several "red flag" warnings that the launch would not go well.
  • Staff withholding information from MNsure board members and other key officials about the site issues prior to its launch.
  • Setting itself (and achieving) a target for the number of people it wanted to enroll on health plans that was "seriously flawed," and actually should have been much higher.
  • And failing to provide adequate customer service through its call center, which resulted in customers being bounced back and forth between staff.

Changes needed at board level

The report calls for certain powers to be taken away from the MNsure board, noting it is given more control and autonomy over decisions than many other state departments.

The auditor's office says Minnesota's senators and representatives should consider making the MNsure Board purely advisory. That would mean handing over its managerial responsibilities to an administrator the governor appoints – someone who would then be directly accountable to the governor.

"In our view, an agency with MNsure’s impact and visibility should be directly accountable to the governor. There is some precedent for an agency having both a governor-appointed administrator and board (for example, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency), but the Legislature should consider what future role it wants the MNsure Board to play."

It also advises that MNsure's enrollment process should be overseen by the Office of Minnesota IT Services.

Any positives?

It wasn't all negative.

The auditor did say that most of the 371,000 people who used MNsure to sign up for health insurance were happy with their coverage.

But were frustrated by the lengthy waiting times and glitches that delayed them from signing up.

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