Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday that he believes Minnesotans deserve a “reckoning” for the problems with the MNsure website, but he’s not ready yet to point fingers of blame.
“The people of Minnesota have been terribly inconvenienced,” Dayton said. “The best I can determine at this point in time is that it’s not for lack of intent or professional desire to make this as successful as possible from the very beginning. Obviously we’ve fallen far short of the mark.”
With lawmakers demanding answers about the state’s error-prone online health insurance exchange and a review underway by the state legislative auditor, Dayton and MNsure leaders on Friday offered the most details to date about decisions made in the nascent days of the agency.
Of key interest is why MNsure officials scaled back the mandate of the company hired to lead the effort — Reston, Va.-based Maximus — and whether that decision has continued to affect the site’s performance.
Dayton said some of that information will come from the legislative audit, “with the perspective of 20-20 hindsight.”
But MNsure’s interim CEO Scott Leitz said he hopes a report next week from UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, which performed a two day end-to-end assessment of the entire IT system, will provide “an initial read.”
The state selected Maximus as the lead contractor to hire subcontractors and manage what was to become $46 million in federal grants.
The company released a statement to lawmakers Thursday describing the evolution of its work, in which it was moved into a supporting role in February. By May, it had one project manager working in St. Paul.
And by Nov. 30, with the site bogged down and consumers facing a deadline in two weeks, Maximus only communicated remotely with MNsure.
Dayton said that if he was told of the move, he doesn’t remember — mainly because the focus was on meeting an unrelenting deadline set by the federal government to launch the exchanges on Oct. 1.
“If it had come up I’m not sure it would have registered on the significance of it, of Maximus vs. IBM/Curam vs. in-house,” Dayton said in a scheduled meeting with reporters. “The question was, ‘Are we proceeding to be on pace for Oct. 1 and what’s the most effective way to do that given the time pressures?’ ”
Leitz, who has been on the job for three weeks, said Friday the impetus to change Maximus’ role came after the federal government in January laid out 70 functions that state exchanges needed to have in place to get their exchanges certified.
Maximus was more skilled at planning and business processes, Leitz said, and not on building pieces of the system and execution. The state shifted responsibility to EngagePoint, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company that was hired to design the billing and other financial management activities, and also serve as the system integrator, to make sure the parts work together.
“When the feds came out with the business function processes, it became clear we needed to move beyond planning and into implementation,” Leitz said. “The goal was very squarely on assuring we met federal requirements to have an operational site on Oct. 1. We met those goals. We got a site operational by Oct. 1.”
Staff writer Rachel Stassen-Berger contributed to this report.