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“I’ll be blunt — three or four months ago, we wouldn’t have known what to ask for,” he said.
A contract to boost call center operations is expected to be signed Thursday or Friday with APAC Inc., an Illinois company with service center operations in Mendota Heights. The contract will run through the end of April.
The board voted unanimously to add call center staff immediately, while some pressed for details about the impact on MNsure’s budget, which has been funded entirely with federal grants.
Leitz said the original budget built in $350,000 in “overflow” costs, and that center costs above that amount would come from savings in salaries and other areas.
Republicans expressed frustration with the budget and process, which likely will get more attention at a meeting next week of the bipartisan MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee.
“Gov. Dayton and Democrats had three years to develop a plan, and have known for months that the call center was leaving Minnesotans frustrated without assistance,” Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, a member of the committee, said in a statement. “MNsure should have issued a request-for-proposal, and cast a wide and competitive net to find experts who could fix this mess.”
The call center contract was signed under an emergency provision that Leitz said allowed the organization to hire an outside vendor on a fast track without going through the usual competitive bidding process. He said it was a hybrid method, where it sought bids from three vendors before selecting APAC.
To get the agency out of perpetual “crisis mode,” as described recently by an outside consultant, Leitz said he will work to improve project management on the IT side. He also plans to add two deputy-level positions to improve internal management functions, as the agency has grown from a small start-up to a more evolved agency.
Meanwhile, MNsure intends to hire a new “prime vendor” to help the agency make necessary changes to the overall system to make it work over the long term. Right now, many of the functions are being handled by hand, including taking paper applications and making the handoff from MNsure to various insurance companies.
The new vendor will help make sure that various vendors that are working on the complex website “work together in a better way,” Leitz said.
Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335