Others’ Opinion: MNsure fix would be a nice 1st step

Published 8:55 am Friday, January 31, 2014

— The St. Cloud Times

With just two months until the final deadline for Minnesotans to enroll, the hits just keep coming for MNsure, the state’s $150 million (and counting?) health-insurance exchange.

The latest? The Star Tribune reported Thursday some MNsure managers were given bonuses totaling $26,354 for work done in the three months leading up to the Oct. 1 launch.

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Although not even a millidrop in the exchange’s financial bucket, the idea of awarding bonuses to any employee associated with something now considered in “crisis mode” — and even recommended to be scrapped — only builds the case against MNsure and even the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

But as much as partisan lawmakers at the state and federal levels want to repeal it, the more responsible approach is to not just fix technical glitches, but resolve the “bigger picture” challenges exposed since enrollment efforts launched Oct. 1.

The major objectives of the ACA are to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, expand access to care and control costs.

The biggest factor in reaching those goals is to get young people without insurance to enroll. That’s not happening. Plus, implementation of the ACA caused countless people with insurance to either lose their policies, pay substantially more for them, or pay more for different coverage.

Lawmakers need to fix those problems. If polling is any indicator, that could happen by revising the ACA to do something such as allowing insurers to provide policies that are less expensive but come with higher deductibles.

That’s just one of many ideas experts — not politicians — are suggesting be implemented to make the ACA work. Given the money and resources spent to date on it, that’s a better investment than starting over.

The exposure of MNsure’s endless problems the past three months speaks to the importance of government officials and private vendors being accountable.

As Minnesotans have seen, both sides are blaming each other for a laundry list of technical problems with the site. A consultant last week even recommended scrapping it.

No matter what, the top priority of government officials is to make good on the $150 million taxpayers have poured into the project. Whether that means getting current vendors and state staff to fix problems or finding others capable of doing that quickly, state leaders need to resolve these problems within the existing budget, not by spending more public money.