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.