Dayton and legislative auditor react to MNsure data breach

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Gov. Mark Dayton defended Minnesota's online health insurance exchange, even as the state's Legislative Auditor announced it would investigate, a data security breach at MNsure.

WCCO TV reports that Governor Dayton says he still has confidence in MNsure leaders and staff, after the release of private data for more than 2,400 insurance agents.

MNsure officials said they quickly remedied the error by an employee and will investigate it.

So will state legislative auditor James Nobles. According to a Minnesota Public Radio report Nobles said they hadn't quite planned to be at MNsure this quickly, but had planned to look into it, in the months to come.

The investigation will start on Monday.

The Star Tribune reported that a MNsure staffer by mistake sent an email to an Apple Valley insurance broker on Thursday that contained private information on more than 2,400 insurance agents, including their Social Security numbers, the newspaper reports.

The mistake was promptly acknowledged. The data were then properly deleted, the broker Jim Koester, told the Star Tribune. But Koester said he was rattled by the experience, which seemed to bolster the case of critics of the new online insurance marketplace who have long said privacy would be a problem.

"It’s scary. If this is happening now, how can clients of MNsure be confident their data is safe?” Koester told the Star Tribune.

It was bad timing for a stumble for MNsure, which is trying to drum up interest in the new online marketplace in advance of an official launch Oct. 1, when state residents can begin using it. The state has been advertising MNsure as part of a marketing campaign. A call center established to answer consumer questions launched earlier this month.

MNsure grew out of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which allows states to establish a new insurance exchange where consumers can easily log on and comparison shop for insurance that best fits their needs. Users of the exchange will need to enter in sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, the Star Tribune notes.

Not all states have chosen to set up their own exchanges – some will use one established by the federal government. But among those states that are creating their own marketplaces, MNsure aims to offer the lowest health care insurance rates in the nation.

Officials expect as many as 1 million Minnesotans will use MNsure. The exchange is primarily for people who are uninsured, small-business owners and consumers enrolled in public plans like MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance.

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