Tom Steward

Tom Steward is the bureau chief of Watchdog.org's Minnesota Bureau, a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He is an investigative reporter focused on waste, fraud and abuse in government and has previously worked for WCCO-TV (CBS) and KSTP-TV (ABC) in the Twin Cities. Follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter.

Just What the Doc Ordered for MNsure?

Posted by: Tom Steward Updated: September 25, 2013 - 4:19 PM

Finally just what the doctor ordered for the state’s beleaguered MNsure health insurance exchange—good news following an onslaught of criticism and a serious systemic failure that received national attention for all the wrong reasons. 

It’s not the band-aid apology issued at the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee hearing yesterday by Senator Tony Lourey (rather than the responsible officials) for the breach of 1,500 insurance brokers’ Social Security numbers by a MNsure employee.

Nor the surgical “state of the art” data privacy protocols that Minnesota I.T. officials promised apprehensive legislators will safeguard against further breaches with the October 1 start-up of the $110 million online exchange.   

Ditto for today’s clinical letter to Gov. Dayton by four GOP oversight committee members criticizing “an ever-growing culture of unresponsiveness and secrecy” in MNsure. The legislators pressed MNsure to “confirm pursuant to the enacting legislation it has prepared a chart detailing each of its employees’ level of access to the personal, private data collected and stored by the new state agency.  MNsure should provide this document immediately to the oversight committee.”

The good news comes in the form of national recognition for MNsure’s $9 million marketing campaign featuring Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Time magazine has awarded MNsure the prize not for the most secure online exchange but for “Best Use of a Folk Hero” among state marketing blitzes. 

The folksy ads do not deal with why data loss prevention counter measures weren’t in place prior to employees having access to sensitive personal information, being able to download it to an individual workstation and disseminate unencrypted files externally. 

Instead, as the magazine points out, Paul Bunyan gets into accidental situations in everyday life where “things go terribly wrong” and he needs help fast.  Sound familiar?  In the ads, Babe the Blue Ox steps in to triage the situation and rescue Paul. 

With just days remaining to the official unveiling of MNsure exchange, a campaign saturating Minnesota’s airwaves with Paul and Babe ads might be just what the doctor ordered.

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