Minnesota: We Need Another $12.5 Million for Exchange Repairs

by Jim Geraghty

In addition to the Oregon news below, Minnesota is finding it will end up spending a lot more on its exchange . . . 

MNsure wants to spend an additional $12.5 million this year to continue repairs to its website and call center, officials said Wednesday, as they unveiled plans for a balanced budget in 2015.

Operations this year are being funded by federal grants — Minnesota has received about $150 million from the federal government to create the MNsure exchange . . . 

So far, about 115,000 Minnesotans have used MNsure and are in the process of obtaining health insurance coverage. The tally includes about 82,000 who are enrolling in public health insurance programs and about 33,000 signing up for commercial health insurance.

Nearly six months, 33,000 signups. This is another one of those state exchanges that didn’t work on the launch date:

Some people were locked out of their applications, while others struggled to find out if they were eligible for financial assistance. MNsure didn’t play well with certain web browsers, and many users were confronted with frozen screens. MNsure officials would have known about many of these problems if they had tested the site with consumers prior to Oct. 1.

The state has spent about $100 million so far on creating its exchange. State officials had expected MNsure to enroll up to 1.3 million people for insurance by 2016 . . . an increasingly unlikely goal.

Again, this is all occurring under a Democratic governor, so the usual implausible excuse that “Republican obstructionism” is at fault simply doesn’t apply here.

When Gov. Mark Dayton took office in 2011 he charged ahead, in part by setting up an exchange task force.

Problems, though, were already taking root.

The group wasn’t thinking deeply enough about the technological nuts and bolts of the project, and that the same was true of the state employees leading the effort, said task force member Dannette Coleman, chief for individual and family business for the Medica health plan.

One cannot help but wonder if the governor looked hard at the looming problems of the exchange, or whether he just averted his eyes because he was so invested, politically and emotionally, in the notion that they had to work.

A slew of Minnesota Republicans are running for governor this year: special-education teacher Rob Farnsworth, business executive Scott Honour, Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson, former state representative Marty Seifert, state senator Dave Thompson, and former state representative Kurt Zellers.