ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton stopped short Thursday of expressing full faith in the executive leadership of Minnesota's health insurance exchange, calling continued problems at MNsure "unacceptable" and saying they must be resolved very soon.
The Democratic governor was asked Thursday if he's confident that exchange leaders were adequately addressing several problems. He said he'd wait a week to 10 days to render that judgment.
Minnesotans who want to buy private insurance coverage effective Jan. 1 under the federal health overhaul have until Dec. 23 to get it through MNsure. Dayton said the days leading up to that deadline "will be critical not only to the functioning of the operation given the timetable but also the capability of the senior staff and the board to manage the organization through this challenging time."
Nearly 25,000 people had enrolled in coverage through MNsure by Nov. 30, for a total number of people covered of 71,579 because of family insurance plans. But aspects of the MNsure operation have been plagued by problems. Callers to its hotline have been experiencing waits of up to an hour, and Minnesota insurance companies have complained that they continue to get inaccurate or incomplete information about insurance enrollees from the agency.
In a statement released by MNsure, board chairman Brian Beutner said he agreed with Dayton on the importance of solving outstanding problems. He noted that the agency upped staffing at its call center, and is working with insurance companies to solve the data transfer issues.
"As with any startup, we will continue to see new issues come up and the MNsure team is working around the clock to resolve issues as they come up," Beutner said.
Dayton was also asked about a report on Watchdog.org, a conservative news site, that MNsure's executive director April Todd-Malmlov took a nearly two-week vacation to Costa Rica in late November. The site criticized her for taking time off in a period where site and call center problems were still unresolved.
MNsure confirmed the vacation but said Todd-Malmlov notified board members of her absence and was in daily phone and email contact with agency staff. Dayton said his office also got notice of the vacation.
Dayton signed the legislation that created MNsure and appointed its board. He noted that the board now has direct authority over Todd-Malmlov.
Associated Press reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report.