MNSure asks for additional $12.5 million to fix website and call center

posted at 2:01 pm on March 13, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

This time, though, they swear they can make the website work. The Minnesota board that runs the state-based ObamaCare operation unveiled a $39.8 million operating budget for the year that includes the kind of money that usually could create a multitude of web portals from scratch. The additional $12.5 million for web-portal reconstruction and call-center improvements come on top of tens of millions already spent by the state and federal governments on the health-insurance system:

MNsure wants to spend an additional $12.5 million this year to continue repairs to its website and call center, officials said Wednesday, as they unveiled plans for a balanced budget in 2015.

During a meeting Wednesday in St. Paul, the MNsure board approved a $39.8 million budget for next year that will be balanced if the federal government lets MNsure change the timing for when it can spend $5 million in grants.

Federal approval is likely, said Scott Leitz, interim chief executive officer at MNsure, because the state is seeking flexibility – not more money. But if federal officials object, MNsure will make spending cuts so it doesn’t need more funds from the Legislature, Leitz said.

Meanwhile, MNsure also is seeking federal approval to change its plans for spending grant funds this year, which would allow an additional $10 million for information technology (IT) and $2.5 million for better customer service operations.

How much has Minnesota already spent on the MNSure exchange? Close to $150 million. How many people have signed up? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. The official figure is 115,000 people “using” MNSure, but that’s split between Medicaid and private insurance … the latter of which only amounts to 33,000 sign-ups. Enrollments are a different matter, and no one seems to have the figures for actual, paid insurance enrollments or the demographics of those additions to the risk pool.

By the way, the cost per private-insurance sign-up — since Medicaid programs could have enrolled people without the exchange — comes to close to $5,000 each. Even with the Medicaid figures included, it comes to $1,413 per sign-up, and that doesn’t include the subsidies that some will receive.

MNSure says they expect a flood of enrollments this month, though:

MNsure expects a surge in activity this month as consumers rush to beat a March 31 deadline for obtaining coverage to comply with the federal health law. The health exchange has launched a new awareness campaign connected with the deadline, Leitz said, adding that more than 850 enrollment events have been planned across the state.

People who don’t have coverage could be required to pay a penalty that’s 1 percent of their yearly household income, or $95 per person per year – whichever amount is higher.

Except, of course, that now they won’t pay a penalty, thanks to the latest unilateral change in ObamaCare from the White House. Besides, people motivated to beat that deadline would have signed up a long time before now, probably at the beginning of the year — especially if they lost their insurance thanks to the ObamaCare changes.

Don’t blame Republicans for this debacle either, Jim Geraghty says:

Again, this is all occurring under a Democratic governor, so the usual implausible excuse that “Republican obstructionism” is at fault simply doesn’t apply here.

When Gov. Mark Dayton took office in 2011 he charged ahead, in part by setting up an exchange task force.

Problems, though, were already taking root.

The group wasn’t thinking deeply enough about the technological nuts and bolts of the project, and that the same was true of the state employees leading the effort, said task force member Dannette Coleman, chief for individual and family business for the Medica health plan.

One cannot help but wonder if the governor looked hard at the looming problems of the exchange, or whether he just averted his eyes because he was so invested, politically and emotionally, in the notion that they had to work.

That’s true of Democrats across the board … and look how well it’s working out for them this year.

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Governor Marty Seifert?

Hat Trick on March 13, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Throw out the actor from the senate.

Leftists believe that money is just printed…oh wait…

DOW down 200.

Schadenfreude on March 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Let me guess since we just happen to have a surplus they will give it to them. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

gophergirl on March 13, 2014 at 2:13 PM

I blame Bishop …

M240H on March 13, 2014 at 2:14 PM

When I read that headline all I could think of was the quote from Vegas Vacation:

Why don’t you give me half the money you were going to spend, we’ll go out back, I’ll kick you in the nuts, and we’ll call it a day!

Meric1837 on March 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

I’m guessing somebody can get a good deal on a really big likeness of Paul Bunyan.

Happy Nomad on March 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Leftists believe that money is just printed…oh wait…

Nowadays many of ’em believe money just magically appears on AMT and EBT cards.

hawkeye54 on March 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

that would be ‘ATM’ cards.

hawkeye54 on March 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Who broke the system? Charge them for every penny it costs to fix it. Then see that they never work again unless the job requires a paper hat/hairnet and that they learn to ask if the customer wants fries with that order.

DAT60A3 on March 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM

This is just like a Nigerian scam. Once you’re in, they just keep stringing you along…
“Ah kind sir, we are flummoxed and distressed. We just need another $12.50 to pay one more government fee, and THEN we’ll be able to transfer the unclaimed millions to your account! This is the last problem, TRUST US”

Marcola on March 13, 2014 at 2:23 PM

MNSure says they expect a flood of enrollments this month

It’s fun to expect things.

WhatSlushfund on March 13, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Just close it down…

Free the slaves from Job Lock……

Electrongod on March 13, 2014 at 2:26 PM

I believe that’s what we call an ad hominem attack.

rogerb on March 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM

THIS is why Bishop is no longer here…..

ToddPA on March 13, 2014 at 2:50 PM

MNSure says they expect a flood of enrollments this month

I’m expecting Natalie Dormer to call and ask me out to dinner later this month.

SacredFire on March 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Pathetic waste of taxpayer money and Dem Gov. Dayton still has an approval rating over 50%.

MN J on March 13, 2014 at 4:26 PM

I swear, all these exchanges are criminal enterprises.

NavyMustang on March 13, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Is beheading the guilty parties, and posting their heads on the city gates still illegal?

Still is, huh?


orangemtl on March 13, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Why not? I mean really…

Murphy9 on March 13, 2014 at 6:07 PM