Dayton stops short of backing MNsure executives

Ongoing problems with MNsure, Minnesota’s online health insurance exchange, have Gov. Mark Dayton expressing new doubts about the system which his administration developed.

Dayton was asked  at a press conference today whether he had full confidence in MNsure’s board of directors and executives.

“Let’s see how they perform in the next week, 10 days,” he said. “I think this is a very critical period. I think one of the issues has been the board and even my office being aware of what these problems are and the extent and the ones that are looming ahead. And we need to change that pattern.”

Minnesotans who want to buy private insurance coverage effective Jan. 1 have until Dec. 23 to apply on MNsure.

Another public relations problem emerged for MNsure when a blog called Watchdog.org reported MNsure’s Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov took a two week vacation in November to Costa Rica.  Republicans and other critics of MNsure and the Affordable Care Act used the report to question how the director of the exchange found time to leave the country when many people are having problems using MNsure.

Dayton said he did not  know enough details to judge whether the time off was appropriate under the circumstances.

UPDATE:

MNsure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough issued a statement saying 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.”

As for concerns about the operations of the exchange, MNsure Board Chair Brian Beutner said in a statement that  expanding the contact center and resolving data transfer problems with insurers will improve the exchange.

“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,” said Beutner.  “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. “