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Dayton Withholds Endorsement Of MNsure Leaders

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77648_Pat Kessler WEB Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday persistent problems at Minnesota’s new health care exchange are “unacceptable.”

The governor expressed growing irritation that signup problems for many Minnesotans haven’t been fixed. And the rocky roll-out comes as another MNsure controversy arose.

MNsure’s Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov took a vacation to Costa Rica during a two-week period that included Thanksgiving weekend — a time when MNsure website problems were escalating and call center wait times exceeded an hour.

Gov. Dayton would not criticize the Costa Rican trip saying, “I know the executive director has worked extremely hard for months now, probably most of the last year.”

But a visibly frustrated Dayton said he was “incredulous” that MNsure was not better prepared to handle calls as sign-up deadlines are now less than two weeks away.

And he declined to offer MNsure a vote of confidence.

“Let’s see how they perform in the next week to 10 days,” said the Democratic governor, who signed the MNsure exchange into law. “I think this is a very critical period.”

The Costa Rican vacation was first revealed by the conservative website Watchdog.org, which reported the Governor’s office knew the timing of the trip in advance.

In a written statement, MNsure said Todd-Malmlov “was out of town for eight business days at the end of November. Members of the MNsure Board were aware of her absence. She was available via phone and email and communicated with staff on a daily basis, providing leadership and direction as needed.”

Republican leaders at the Minnesota legislature say they are less concerned about the Costa Rican vacation than they are about health care glitches, which they say could threaten health coverage for thousands of Minnesotans.

“At this point I don’t have confidence,” said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley. “We have families, and Minnesota moms and dads who have significant doubts, worries and concerns about their coverage starting Jan. 1.”

MNsure Board Chairman Brian Buetner, in a written statement, said:

“I agree with the Governor that resolving as many issues as we can in the next week or two will certainly enable us to ensure that an individual who comes to MNsure, selects a plan, and makes a payment will have coverage on Jan. 1.

As with any start up, we will continue to see new issues come up and the MNsure team is working around the clock to resolve issues as they come up.

Actions like expanding the contact center and working with the carriers to resolve data transfer issues will improve the consumer experience, and make it easier for consumers to purchase affordable, comprehensive healthcare insurance through MNsure.”

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