MNsure has named Twin Cities executive Mark Nyquist as the sole finalist for the job of chief executive at the state’s health insurance exchange.

Nyquist has experience working with several large companies in the Twin Cities including UnitedHealth Group, General Mills and Cargill, according to a biography released after a MNsure board meeting Wednesday in St. Paul.

A total of 42 people applied for the top job at MNsure, and a search committee narrowed the list to 11 candidates before focusing on two finalists, said Peter Benner, the chairman of the MNsure board. The other top candidate dropped out of consideration, Benner said.

It’s not a certainty that Nyquist will get the job, but Benner said: “I am very hopeful we can put this together quickly.” He added: “We are still working through all the logistics on this, in terms of how we get everything done and when.”

Minnesota launched the MNsure exchange in October 2013 to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires almost all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. After a rocky rollout, the exchange has improved but still fallen short of enrollment goals.

Nyquist would be the fourth top executive at MNsure in about two years.

Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov resigned in a crisis atmosphere during December 2013 as MNsure struggled with a balky website and overwhelmed call center. She was succeeded by Scott Leitz, who ended his tenure as chief executive during calmer times in May 2015.

Since then, Allison O’Toole has served as interim chief executive. She did not seek the permanent job and will continue with MNsure during any transition period.

At Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth, Nyquist served as vice president of product management, and vice president of strategy and marketing. He worked in finance at Golden Valley-based General Mills.

With a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, and a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan, Nyquist also has worked as a freelance consultant in strategy and business development.

MNsure launched its third open enrollment Sunday. The health exchange website has been stable, O’Toole said, and the MNsure call center has fielded about 7,500 calls during its first three days of operation.

MNsure did not release any enrollment figures Wednesday.

“All of our metrics are showing great consumer interest,” O’Toole said. “Traffic has been really good — a lot of accounts created, a lot of sessions.”

Minnesota has received about $189 million in federal grants to create MNsure, which Minnesotans can use to purchase individual health insurance from private companies and enroll in the Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs for people with low incomes. MNsure also is the new IT system for those public health insurance programs.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, released a letter he wrote to federal officials this week raising concerns about the operating budget at MNsure. Davids questioned whether MNsure has authority to use certain federal grant funds next year, and whether the lack of such funding would create a large hole in the exchange’s budget.

“We are deeply concerned about the indefinite reliance on federal funding that was originally scheduled to end almost a year ago,” Davids wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to an official with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “It seems unlikely that MNsure will ever be financially self-sustainable.”

MNsure spokesman Joe Campbell said the budget situation was being mischaracterized. The state’s exchange previously applied for and received a “no-cost extension” so that existing grant funds to be used this year, Campbell said, adding that MNsure expects to have remaining funds at year’s end.

“We are proposing to use these funds in accordance with federal guidance on allowable uses for remaining exchange funds,” Campbell said in a statement. “This is not a new process and is something several states across the country continue to do to complete … exchange establishment activities.”


Twitter: @chrissnowbeck