Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Days before Minnesota’s new health care exchange is about to go online, some state lawmakers say it’s not ready for prime time. That’s after a MNsure worker mistakenly made public sensitive personal information of about 1600 insurance brokers.
MNsure says it’s conducting a “desktop to desktop” review after that security breach, but they say all systems are go for the new federal health care law, despite public alarm from its critics.
The new health care exchange is scheduled to start accepting applications Oct. 1. MNsure is expecting more than a million Minnesotans to eventually buy insurance through the new health care exchange.
Top officials say they’re fixing security problems as quickly as they arise.
“In all of these situations that we have seen issues, we’ve reacted to it,” Brian Buetner, Chair of the MNsure Board, said at a MN Legislature Oversight Committee hearing. “We’ve gotten information, and we made mid-course corrections.”
A MNsure worker mistakenly e-mailed out personal data, including social security numbers, of 1,600 insurance brokers. It’s a security breach that industry trade groups say they tried to warn the state about, and could have prevented.
“Honestly, it felt very much like a train going very, very fast,” said Alycia Riedl, President of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters. “And no one was willing to stop and listen to the concerns that we were putting out there.”
MNsure is spending millions of dollars for a media ad blitz to tell people about the new health exchange, and get them to enroll. But critics question whether the giant new health care program is prepared to launch.
“We’re not ready,” said State Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. “We’re not taking that seriously.”
Others questioned whether MNsure was doing enough to assure the public its private data is safe.
“I will tell you from what I am hearing from people we are not leaving the people of the State of Minnesota with a very good feeling about how this is going to work,” said Rep. Joe Hoppe, (R) Chaska.
MNsure says the e-mail security breach has nothing to do with the enrolling for health care. And, as promised, Minnesotans will be able to easily buy insurance online– safely.
“Yes, we absolutely feel very confident about the system,” April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure’s Executive Director, said.
The state employee responsible for the e-mail security breach no longer works for MNsure, or the state. And Minnesota’s top IT official describes MNsure security as “state of the art … and the best in state government.”