Updated 4:33 p.m. | Posted 9:38 a.m.
MNsure's chief executive is quitting the health insurance exchange.
Scott Leitz announced his resignation Monday to MNsure's board of directors. Allison O'Toole, the agency's deputy director of external affairs, will take over as MNsure's interim head starting May 22.
Leitz told reporters that he was leaving to take over as chief transformation officer with the Health Care Cost Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
MNsure Board Chair Brian Beutner called Leitz's leaving a "normal, healthy transition" for an organization like MNsure.
Leitz took over in 2013 after MNsure's first executive director resigned under fire for taking a Caribbean vacation as Minnesota's exchange faced near collapse in its first weeks of operation.
Much has changed since then, said University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs.
"The departure of Scott Leitz is entirely different from the conditions of his arrival, which were crisis and very choppy seas," Jacobs said. "Now, the waters are pretty calm. There's a lot of confidence, and respect for the terrific job Scott Leitz has done."
His exit, however, comes as the Legislature debates MNsure's future.
Lawmakers are reviewing proposals ranging from abolishing its governing board to dismantling MNsure entirely in favor of joining the federally-run exchange.
Leitz insisted that uncertainty had nothing to do with his decision move on from what has likely been one of the most challenging positions in state government of late.
Beutner says O'Toole's familiarity with the organization should help make for a smooth transition. Some Republicans were quick to cite Leitz's exit as the latest evidence that MNsure is a failure worthy of dismantling. Others also take issue with the notion Leitz is leaving MNsure on stable ground.
"They're in a critical time right now around how they prepare for open enrollment coming up," said Alycia Riedl, immediate past president of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters.
Riedl is complimentary of Leitz but says MNsure still has major problems that need addressing.
Beutner said O'Toole's familiarity with the organization should help make for a smooth transition.
She was responsible for revamping MNsure's advertising campaign and is well-suited to the top executive job, added Beutner, who is also stepping down.
Minutes after being named interim CEO Monday, O'Toole was already taking about year three of open enrollment this fall and building on improvements made from year one to year two.
"That's where my main focus lies because bottom line the system needs to improve for the people it serves," she said.