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Deloitte named to revamp MNsure exchange

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MNsure's board of directors has hired a new general contractor to revamp its troubled health insurance exchange at a cost of nearly $5 million.   

Deloitte Consulting, Minnesota's original choice to build MNsure will oversee the $100 million project for the next nine months.   

MNsure interim CEO Scott Leitz says Deloitte has two key responsibilities: to advise agency leaders on how much of the current system can be salvaged for the future and to make the site operate as well as it can currently.

Deloitte will bear ultimate responsibility for ensuring MNsure meets deadlines, stays within budget, and meets quality benchmarks.   MNsure will pay Deloitte $4.95 milllion out of MNsure's 2014 budget of federal funds.

Seven companies originally competed for the contract. Bidders included Edina-based Cognizant Technology Solutions and New York-based, Deloitte, which was Minnesota's original choice to build MNsure. The state went with Maximus instead partly because Deloitte's bid came in $20 million over budget.

Deloitte  built exchanges that have worked well for Kentucky, Rhode Island, Washington state and Connecticut. Now the company is getting contracts to fix other state's exchanges.

"They've really been viewed as an entity that can come in and almost play the role of a superhero in helping to turn the fortunes of exchanges that have not gone as well," said David Smith, a health care consultant at Leavitt Partners in Chicago. 

Deloitte is selling itself as a fixer, he added. 

There are many people who want to see MNsure fixed. 

The consumer website experience has improved since its rocky roll-out last fall, but a separate interface for county employees continues to frustrate workers who process applications for government-sponsored coverage such as Medical Assistance.

Linda Bixby, Economic Support division manager with Washington County community services says she hopes Deloitte and MNsure will make fixing the worker portal a high priority, given the workload. 

Medical Assistance applications through MNsure totaled about 100,000. Thousands of additional cases need to be converted from an older system to MNsure, she added.

"These are vulnerable people in poverty, some with disabilities and they need specific services," Bixby said. "I don't feel like their needs are being met by MNsure currently and county workers are unable to serve them properly due to continuing system problems."

MNsure says fixing the worker portal will be a high priority. 

But Kevin Counihan cautions against viewing Deloitte as providing a magic bullet. Counihan is CEO of Connecticut's health insurance exchange, Access Health Connecticut.  What is most important he says is having the right state people in place. 

"We get approached by states who say, 'Gee, we'd like to use your software code and as soon as we have your software code our problems are over.' We basically respond that, no, your problems are just starting," he said. "The most important thing is the staff -- the background, the experience, the quality of the staff."

The contract between MNsure and Deloitte is still subject to the federal government's approval but is in the final stages of review.