February 20, 2015

Legislative Update of February 20th: MNsure Review

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released its much-anticipated review of MNsure’s first year of operations. MNsure is Minnesota’s online health insurance marketplace that was established in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Overall, the OLA concluded that “MNsure’s failures outweighed its achievements in its first year of operations. There were widespread problems with MNsure’s online enrollment system and customer service, causing difficulties for consumers, insurers, counties, and the Department of Human Services.” The report also made key recommendations for the Legislature:

  • The Legislature should amend State law to give the Governor, rather than the MNsure Board, authority to appoint the MNsure Chief Executive Officer. In addition, the Legislature should consider whether to retain the MNsure Board as a governing body or to make it purely advisory.
  • The Legislature should amend statutes to formally create a governance structure for MNsure’s enrollment system and ensure that MNsure’s future information technology work is subject to oversight from the Office of MN.IT Services.
  • MNsure and DHS should ensure that insurance brokers are fairly compensated for enrolling consumers through MNsure.
  • MNsure should improve its ability to access and analyze the applicant and enrollee data it collects.

Several committee hearings were held on the report immediately after it was released. There were predictable partisan attacks and defenses of the MNsure program. The Republicans focused on the overall cost of the program, IT glitches, and the lack of customer service. The Democrats highlighted the gains Minnesota has made in reducing the uninsured and that the program continues to improve. To a degree, there did seem to be some bipartisan appetite to pursue legislation to improve MNsure based on the OLA’s recommendations. One bill, SF 139, authored by Senator Tony Lourey, would eliminate the MNsure Board of Directors and make MNsure a cabinet-level State agency. It has passed one committee in the Senate.

While much of the report focuses on MNsure’s shortcomings in its first year, the report did contain a few bright spots for MNsure. The report concluded that 67 percent of individuals surveyed who purchased private coverage through MNsure would purchase the same coverage again and 43 percent of respondents indicated that MNsure lowered their insurance costs.

In any event, the report and the interest around it seem to indicate that this issue is not likely to fade into the background anytime soon.