Dayton calls on contractor to make MNsure fixes

Technological problems with the state's new online health insurance marketplace continue a few days before a critical deadline, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to contact the Ireland-based contractor that has been the source of some of MNsure's most persistent problems.

In response to the governor's call Friday, IBM Curam sent a team of its top workers to St. Paul. Dayton, has been increasingly critical of MNsure in recent days, saying that technological issues that plague the site should have been solved by now.

IBM Curam, owned by technology giant IBM, bills itself as an expert in creating health insurance exchanges.

"Cúram Solution for Healthcare Reform provides core, foundational elements of the exchange and incorporates packaged subject-matter expertise such as out-of-the-box evidence, rules and workflow that are specific to the health care reform initiative," according to the firm's site.

But several of MNsure's most vexing issues can be traced back to the Cúram software, including a glitch that prevents people from finding out how much of a federal subsidy they're eligible to receive. Some applications are stuck in "pending" mode, said John Schadl, a spokesman for MNsure.

IBM Curam is a subcontractor to MAXIMUS, a company that is the primary contractor for the site. IBM Curam is slated to be paid at least $3.96 million for its work, according to a contract posted on the MNsure website.

"As one of many companies involved on the project, IBM is working with Minnesota and coordinating with its prime and subcontractors enhancing the performance of the state's health insurance marketplace as quickly as possible," said IBM spokesman Clint Roswell.

Some people who are experiencing problems with the MNsure website say they're worried that they won't have insurance on Jan. 1. Minnesotans who need insurance by then have until Dec. 23 to pick a plan. However, open enrollment lasts until March 31. After that, people without insurance will pay a penalty.