By Chuck Grothaus
MNsure, the Minnesota health insurance exchange, is now in its second year of enrolling Minnesotans in health plans so more residents have access to the health coverage they need. On Feb. 17, a state Legislative Auditor report was issued critiquing MNsure’s first year of operation. What’s wrong with the auditor’s report?
Let’s take a quick look at the summary of the state report (you can view the summary here):
- The report analyzes MNsure’s first year of operation (Oct. 2013 – Sept. 2014).
- The report fails to address the multitude of enhancements and improvements MNsure leadership has made since it launched the MNsure website in 2013.
- The report points the finger at federal government’s slow release of rules and guidelines for state exchanges as part of the issue MNsure faced in its roll out.
- The report states that MNsure failed to provide adequate customer service during its initial year of operation.
There are several more criticisms of MNsure’s roll out found in the Legislative Auditor’s report. But to better understand the actual creation of MNsure, here are a few important dates to consider:
- March 2010: The Affordable Care Act is signed into law by President Obama.
- September 2011: Gov. Dayton directs the Minnesota Department of Commerce to create the state’s health exchange.
- August 2012: Vendors selected to build the state health exchange web platform.
- April 2013: MNsure board formally appointed by Gov. Dayton.
- September 2013: MNsure website approved to connect with federal data hub.
- October 2013: MNsure public launch.
As evidenced by this brief timeline, MNsure faced a slew of management challenges by the mere fact that it had no governing board until just six months before its public launch! What’s more, the Legislative Auditor failed to note the operational adjustments MNsure made throughout its first few months of operation.
In a response to the report written by MNsure’s chief executive, Scott Leitz, the positive impact MNsure had on Minnesotans enrolling in health insurance are noted. Leitz writes:
Since October 1, 2013, the uninsured rate in Minnesota has dropped by 40 percent to less than five percent. Now, 95 percent of Minnesotans have comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage.
Second, MNsure has been instrumental in the enrollment of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans in comprehensive, affordable health coverage. Many of those who enrolled had previously not had health insurance coverage. MNsure has added competition to the insurance market and transparency to price comparison which, combined, drive down costs for Minnesotans. This is evidence of success.
Furthermore, MNsure has made dramatic improvements to the consumer experience in less than 24 months of operation. MNsure has completed its second open enrollment period and in contrast to year one–
- Consumers are enrolling through the website with relative ease.
- Call volume is high and call wait times are on average less than five minutes.
- A robust statewide network of navigators, brokers and other assisters is in place to helpconsumers enroll.
- Consumers are saving money. Minnesotans who enrolled in qualified health plans saved over$30 million as a result of tax credits on health insurance plans sold through MNsure.
- We have a stong, multi-agency project management team and decision-making process inplace to set priorities.
- We have a deep commitment to transparency and accountability.
- We are listening, and our partners and stakeholders are informed and engaged with us as wecontinue to grow and improve.
Interestingly, the vast majority of local media attention of this legislative auditor report is focused on criticisms of the launch of MNsure, which happened nearly 18 months ago – not the efforts MNsure staff made to improve and enhance the website, address customer issues and complaints, and smooth the enrollment process.
The bottom line: MNsure benefits Minnesotans by providing a health insurance exchange offering choice and price competition. Health insurance companies may be lobbying state representatives to make sweeping changes to MNsure, but when just 5% of Minnesotans are now “uninsured” it’s difficult to say MNsure’s plug should be pulled.