Video: MN ObamaCare exchange failing, panel recommends scrapping system
posted at 10:01 am on January 23, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Oregon and Maryland have attracted most of the attention for failures within state-based ObamaCare web portals, but Minnesota may challenge for the bronze medal at the very least. Despite repeated assurances from Governor Mark Dayton on down, the MNSure system is failing, its management structure is “non-existent” according to an independent panel, and the best option might be trashing the whole mess:
An independent consultant has issued a damning report of the state’s troubled online insurance marketplace.
MNsure’s management structure is “non-existent” according to Optum, a subsidiary of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, which recently performed a week-long analysis of the more than $100 million website.
MNsure executives have been making decisions in a “crisis mode,” the report states.
MNsure’s board members called for the end-to-end review after the website continued to experience major technological issues three months after it launched.
The report found the agency’s ambitious enrollment goals will suffer as a result.
“While MNsure will fall short of achieving its original enrollment goals and consumer satisfaction levels, continuous improvements can be made in both the short-term and long-term,” the report states.
Those problems, however, won’t be fixed quickly and the state should consider scrapping the system altogether and starting over, the report said.
The MNSure target was 70,000 enrolled in private plans by April 1, according to the metrics laid out by the state. Only 28,000 have done so at this time, even though nearly 50,000 have enrolled in public assistance programs through the MNSure portal, and they have less than two months left to make up the remaining 60% of the goal (April 1 enrollments have to be registered by mid-March). And the website won’t be fixed in time to allow for that kind of boost, KARE 11 reports:
A “large gap exists between required functionality and what has been delivered,” the report states. Technological testing was inadequate, and schedules took precedent over quality.
In particular, Optum faulted IBM Curam for more than 100 defects in its software – more than twice as many as any other vendor on the MNsure project.
In December, Gov. Mark Dayton blasted IBM, which responded that improvements were underway.
But it’s not just the Curam software that has contributed to the site’s technical problems.
There’s a “significant gap” in program management at MNsure, which has made software development, testing and readiness difficult.
People can call into MNSure to get assistance in sign-ups, but that’s also a problem. Wait times are averaging 50 minutes in the call center, which is another area in which management is non-existent. The independent panel recommends hiring another 100 operators, but that will take time, plenty of training, and one hopes no small amount of background investigation before allowing access to that kind of private identity data. Speaking as someone who ran specialized call centers for 15 years in the context of highly-sensitive data, I can attest that there is no way to get that many operators up to speed in that short of a time frame, even if you could hire them all today.
As predicted, MNSure is crashing and burning as we speak. Insurers here expecting a windfall of healthy, young enrollees are going to rethink next year’s premium schedules — and Minnesotans will get the bill just as we go to the voting booth in the midterms.
Addendum: Even when I briefly ran a health-sector call center in the mid-90s, where wait times weren’t a big focus of customer service, a 50-minute average would probably have gotten me fired.