MNsure Board Gets Sobering Technology Update

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) —Consultants told the board that governs Minnesota’s health insurance exchange Wednesday that a lot of work is needed to get the troubled system ready for open enrollment in November.

MNsure hired Deloitte Consulting LLP for $5 million in April to be its new general contractor and provide a roadmap for overhauling the state’s online health care marketplace. Brian Keane, a principal with Deloitte, and project manager Sally Fingar gave MNsure’s directors a sobering initial diagnosis.

They said they didn’t find any significant problems with the blueprints for the system but said 41 important items aren’t working properly or aren’t in place yet and need to be addressed before open enrollment. Keane said MNsure will need to have contingency plans in place to process applications and do other work manually — on paper — if the computerized systems aren’t ready.

“I wish we could tell you today that it’s all on track, it’s all going to be delivered systematically by November 15th. … However, from experience I think it would be poor of us to start planning that all of this would be delivered systematically. There will be a heavy reliance on manual intervention,” Keane said.

The consultants said the three most important computerized components that haven’t been rolled out online yet are: the ability to handle changes in consumers’ life circumstances that affect their eligibility and coverage needs, such as the birth of a child; the ability to renew coverage for lower-income people now enrolled in the public Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs; and the ability to renew polices for people who bought them from private insurance companies via MNsure.

“System requirements for some of this functionality have not been finalized,” Deloitte said in one of two written reports released Wednesday. “If this functionality is not implemented on schedule, its absence could have a significant adverse impact on MNsure operations during open enrollment.”

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration set up MNsure as the state’s main component of the federal Affordable Care Act. The exchange stumbled out of the gate when it launched last fall. Technical problems with the website made it difficult for many Minnesotans to enroll for coverage, and consumers faced frustratingly long waits for help from the call center. After a management shake-up, software fixes, hiring to beef up the call center and other changes, the system started working better earlier this year.

MNsure has enrolled about 243,000 Minnesotans in public and private health plans. A University of Minnesota report released last week said the federal law has helped cut the ranks of uninsured Minnesotans by nearly 41 percent, or 180,500 people. Dayton administration and MNsure officials have touted those numbers as evidence of MNsure’s success.

But Republicans were quick to say Deloitte’s findings show that MNsure is a failure.

“Despite Governor Dayton’s boast that MNsure ‘has been tremendously successful,’ it is evident that his $160 million Obamacare website is still broken and continues to frustrate Minnesotans,” Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said in a statement.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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