MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – The debate over MNsure’s future is taking an emotional turn.
A House panel voted Monday to abandon MNsure and move to the federal exchange by 2017. That decision came after one man blamed the exchange for his wife’s death from cancer earlier this year.
Gail Dunker died of cancer after her family discovered they did not have the insurance they thought they signed up for.
Her husband, Chuck, says — in effect– MNsure killed her.
“Absolutely,” he said, unpacking photographs of Gail to show to Minnesota lawmakers. “She’d be here today if it wasn’t for MNsure. ”
Dunker carries piles of papers documenting his 18-month odyssey through MNsure.
He and Gail thought they were covered and thought they had all the right papers to prove it.
“This tells us we have a monthly premium of $0,” he says, pointing to a MNsure confirmation document. “Gail’s eligibile. I’m eligible.”
The Dunkers say they received two applications by mail from the Department of Human Services — one for their son, Sam, and the other application blank, which they completed and mailed back.
That’s why they say they canceled their private insurance in April, only to discover later that Gail had aggressive cancer and no insurance at all.
MNsure denied the Dunkers’ appeal, and Chuck struggled to find treatment until Gail died in January.
“Because Gail didn’t fill out the form they wanted, they let her die,” he said. “Plain and simple.”
A recent investigation of MNsure by the legislative auditor found the website’s first year sign-up glitches were widespread.
Rep. Matt Dean’s bill to abandon MNsure goes the farthest among several Republican proposals to change MNsure.
“It is bad. It’s getting worse,” said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, the chair of the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. “As we see today, it is harming people in Minnesota.”
No Democrats on the committee voted for it.
Despite the Dunkers’ extensive record-keeping, two judges ruled against the Dunker family, saying they did not prove their lack of insurance was MNsure’s fault.
A hearing examiner ruled, in part:
“For her to enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period, she must show that her non-enrollment was the result of an error, misrepresentation or inaction of an officer, employee or agent of MNsure. The appellant has not shown that this was so. No evidence shows that MNsure represented to her that the materials she mailed in March 2014 were those needed for enrollment in a QHP (qualified health plan). Her assumption that this was the case was not the result of anything MNsure did or did not do.”
Two months after Gail’s death, Chuck is telling lawmakers she could have lived if MNsure had been more understanding.
“The cancer she had was treatable. They told us that at the Mayo [Clinic],” he said. “They said, ‘If she had been here when this first came up … this cancer is very treatable.'”
A spokesman for MNsure issued this written statement:
“What happened to Gail Dunker is tragic, and we offer our deepest sympathies to the entire Dunker family. To protect the privacy of Minnesotans, it is MNsure’s policy not to publicly discuss the private information or circumstances of MNsure enrollees. To date, hundreds of thousands of people have successfully used MNsure to gain high-quality, affordable health coverage. MNsure is a work in progress and is getting better. We will continue to make improvements to help as many Minnesotans as possible obtain affordable health coverage through MNsure.org.”
Gov. Mark Dayton is asking lawmakers on Monday to hold off on making major changes to the state’s health insurance exchange this year.