MNsure board meeting in emergency session

April Todd-Malmlov
MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov at the unveiling of the 2014 premium rates for the state-sponsored insurance exchange.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

The board in charge of Minnesota's health insurance exchange was meeting Tuesday on short notice in a closed session as its director is under fire.

The MNsure board's evening meeting was being closed to the public and reporters. The purpose on the notice was to discuss compensation matters related to the director and top staff. A board spokesman wouldn't talk about the meeting beforehand.

In the last week, executive director April Todd-Malmlov has been dealing with fallout from an extended trip she took last month to Costa Rica as MNsure complications remained unresolved.

Minnesota's exchange has been fraught with technical issues, both on its state-run website and with a call center meant as a backup. Some health insurance companies have been vocal about worries that people signing up for coverage will have it ready by Jan. 1.

Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton have expressed frustration with the plagued health care rollout, which is tied into the federal insurance overhaul. Last week, Dayton withheld praise for MNsure's leaders but pointed out that only its board of directors had the direct power to remove its executive director. One of Dayton's 2014 challengers, Scott Honour, called Monday for Todd-Malmlov to resign.

Todd-Malmlov, 36, has led the development of Minnesota's health insurance exchange since its formative days in early 2011. It was once under the joint control of two state agencies but is now an independent entity. The Minnesota native previously served as the state of Minnesota's health economist, and also worked for Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.

Todd-Malmlov maintained a calm facade even as MNsure struggled to overcome technological and security glitches. A recent report by the state's Office of the Legislative Auditor rapped MNsure leadership for oversights it said contributed to a breach earlier this year of private information belonging to Minnesota insurance agents, including Social Security numbers. MNsure's managers also took heat from Democratic lawmakers angry that grants to private nonprofits helping with outreach to potential MNsure customers seemed to neglect groups led by blacks and African immigrants, prompting the MNsure board of directors to quickly approve a second round of grants.

The most recent federal data put Minnesota in the middle of the pack for private insurance signups under the federal health overhaul, with 4,478 policies. However, state and federal officials say the state has seen a faster pace of people signing up for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, the state's programs for low-income people and families.