Archived Story

Dayton calls MNsure issues unacceptable

Published 10:20am Friday, December 13, 2013

By Christopher Snowbeck

Pioneer Press

It’s unacceptable that so many problems with MNsure persist at this late date, Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday, adding that he’s “incredulous” as to why the health exchange call center has lacked needed staff in recent days.

MNsure officials have not been keeping Dayton’s staff aware of current and looming problems, or up-to-date on the scope of problems, the governor said during a news conference at the Capitol.


When asked if Dayton still has confidence in MNsure’s leadership, he told reporters: “Let’s see how they perform in the next week to 10 days. This is a very critical period.”

Dayton’s comments came as frustrated consumers are trying to meet a Dec. 23 deadline to buy private health plan coverage next year through the state’s health insurance exchange.

Many who are trying to finalize their coverage still have questions, and have run into hourlong waits for help at the MNsure call center in recent days.

Brian Beutner, chairman of the MNsure board, said in a statement Thursday that he shares the governor’s desire for problems to get fixed.

“As with any startup, we will continue to see new issues come up,” Beutner said. “The MNsure team is working around the clock to resolve issues.”

The state created the MNsure health insurance marketplace to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which calls for almost all Americans to have coverage next year or pay a tax penalty. In recent days, the MNsure call center has been flooded with calls, although wait-times on Thursday fell back to an average of 49 minutes, said Jenni Bowring-McDonough, a MNsure spokeswoman.

One of those callers was Anthony Scott Wisnew, 51, of Eagan. Over the past week or so, Wisnew has spent more than 20 hours, he said, waiting for help from the call center. On two occasions, he’s been able to speak with an operator, but hasn’t yet gotten his problem resolved.

In October, Wisnew signed up for coverage through MNsure with a private health plan, and for weeks the website listed his application as “pending.” But about a week and a half ago, the status was changed to “disabled,” he said, and it’s stayed that way ever since.

“I’m so frustrated, I don’t know what to do,” Wisnew said.

Long waits at the call center follow poor performance last week by the MNsure website, as state and county workers reran thousands of applications for coverage to double-check the accuracy of eligibility determinations.

On Thursday, MNsure could not provide information on current website performance.

Also last week, the trade group for health insurers in Minnesota warned that problems with data being transmitted by MNsure to carriers threatened their ability to provide coverage Jan. 1.

“I think we’re past the point where MNsure’s problems are acceptable,” Dayton said. “People who are calling should get prompt and efficient service, and that is ultimately the senior staff’s responsibility at MNsure and ultimately the board’s responsibility.”

“I’m incredulous that they were as short of staff to receive these calls and inquiries as they apparently are by the number of people they’re adding,” he added.

Since Dec. 2, the average wait time for a MNsure caller has ranged from 43 to 56 minutes, depending on the day. On Wednesday, MNsure received 2,455 calls; the average wait time was 54 minutes.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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