Lawmakers turn up heat on MNsure leaders during Capitol hearing

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Minnesota lawmakers grilled leaders of MNsure Thursday in their first opportunity to ask questions since the state health insurance exchange began enrolling customers.

Members of the bipartisan MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee questioned executives about the fundamental revenue structure and a decision last year to downgrade the participation of the lead technology contractor, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

Maximus Inc., a data services firm in Reston, Virginia was initially awarded the job as the general contractor under a $41 million federal grant. The firm specializes in government projects.

The Star Tribune reports the contract was amended last February and MNsure took over management and responsibility for building the website's technical infrastructure.

Lawmakers questioned that decision.

The Star Tribune reports Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, asked, "Who OK'd that decision?"

MNsure Board Chair Brian Beutner and interim CEO Scott Leitz said the decisions about Maximus were made before they came on board.

Both indicated their goal has been to improve MNsure going forward, but that is going to take time. FOX 9 reports Beutner told lawmakers MNsure has serious problems and "improvements will take months, not days."

Leitz announced one of those solutions Wednesday when he said MNsure had hired an additional 12 phone operators. They will begin training on Jan. 20.

MNsure Operator Bryan Quirk said he and his colleagues spend between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours helping callers get enrolled for coverage, according to the FOX 9 report.

Leitz warned the committee there would be budgetary impacts from bringing on more call center workers. Beutner said he is not intending to ask the Legislature for more money to pay for the cost overruns.

United Health's Optum has been brought in to assess MNsure. Leitz also told the committee that Optum's review of the problems with MNsure's software, call center and vendor operations should be returned by next week, according to FOX 9.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles also began an audit of MNsure this week.

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