Legislative Auditor to investigate MNsure

Jim Nobles
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News File

The bi-partisan Legislative Audit Commission has directed the state's internal government watchdog to perform a broad audit of MNsure, Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace.

Legislative Auditor James Nobles' office already has two limited examinations of MNsure underway. One is a federally required review of how MNsure spent more than $150 million in federal grants. It also is reviewing the security of MNsure's website.

Nobles made clear in January that he believed MNsure was ripe for a thorough review, calling 2014 the year of MNsure "oversight and accountability" for his office. Now the commission has given his office the green light.

"The problem that really troubles me--so many people had so many problems using MNsure," Nobles said.

The comprehensive audit, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will address several questions, including:

• To what extent has MNsure reduced the number of individuals without health insurance in Minnesota?

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• What contributed to initial enrollment problems, and what additional costs did MNsure incur to address them?

• Were MNsure's outreach efforts, including its marketing efforts, effective?

• What has been the experience of Minnesota compared with other states and the federal government?

Reached for comment, a MNsure spokesperson said the office "welcomes" the review. "We are happy to cooperate fully as they examine MNsure's operations, and in the interest of complete transparency, we are prepared to comply with any request they make of us."

As MPR News reported in February, MNsure suffered from poor management and software failures. As the problems mounted, MNsure's original executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, resigned in December. The agency then hired Interim Executive Director Scott Leitz.

While a change in leadership resulted in an improvement MNsure's operations that led to more than 181,000 Minnesotans enrolling in health coverage, questions remain about its long-term ability to generate revenue and function as originally promised.

MNsure must be financially self-sustaining in 2015. The agency is funded from a small percentage of premiums paid to commercial health insurers.