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.

Seven Weeks and Still Stuck on MNsure

Posted by: Tom Steward Updated: November 22, 2013 - 5:00 PM

It only takes a few minutes to check Barb Stonebraker’s birth certificate and passport to confirm it.  Affirmative—the Victoria resident is a U.S. citizen, born and raised in Hennepin County. 

Now if only she could convince MNsure.

A week ago I posted Barb’s story online as a case study into the quirks of Minnesota’s state exchange.  Anyone watching her click through the MNsure website can see she’s virtually as familiar with the options and obstacles as the official “navigators” paid to do it.  Not that it’s done her much good yet.

At the last stage of the process Stonebraker still gets booted off the system. An un-user friendly prompt pops up and logs her off for security reasons after nagging her for allegedly leaving the window “idle for a long period of time.”  The suggested solution on the screen?  Do it all over again.

In fact, the 61 year old applicant never knew her citizenship status was the problem until MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov broke the news last week in a personal phone call responding to numerous SOS emails.  The problem appears connected to the federal data hub’s difficulties in sorting through duplicate applications the system churned out early on in October.  Nice of MNsure’s top official to call, but you have to wonder how many hundreds or thousands of similar calls could be placed.

This week, Stonebraker said she spent 41 minutes on hold with the MNsure help desk over two new error messages before being informed the server was down at the time.  She went right to the top again, pleading her case this time with Brian Beutner, MNsure board chairman. 

Twenty minutes later, Barb came away with the hope, if not necessarily expectation, that the I.T. problems will be resolved in time for her to receive and submit an invoice for a new Health Partners plan to kick in.  If not, Mr. Beutner can expect another SOS from Victoria.  

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