Concerned about MNsure? We sure are.

  • Article by: MICHELLE BENSON and SEAN NIENOW
  • Updated: September 21, 2013 - 8:32 AM

Beyond its costs, there are worries about privacy. Questions must be answered.

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MNsure's marketing campaign featured Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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The Democrats’ health insurance exchange, known as MNsure, opens for enrollment on Oct. 1. We are not supporters of Obamacare (which required an exchange), and we were not supportive of how MNsure was implemented by the Democrats in the last legislative session. But it’s the law.

Our job as legislators and members of the MNsure Oversight Committee is to be stewards of your tax dollars, to look out for your privacy and to make sure the law protects people using the exchange.

MNsure has gotten off to a rough start. It already has spent $150 million building an information-technology infrastructure and a website, yet not a single dollar has gone to medication for seniors, checkups for kids or preventive care for women.

MNsure also is spending almost $5 million in outreach grants — some of which may go to a “trusted community partner” who was recently arrested for wielding a shotgun at a sheriff’s deputy in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, no background checks were in place at MNsure for outreach partners who will work with vulnerable adults, children and seniors.

MNsure also spent $9 million on a controversial advertising campaign featuring Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The exchange also has a payroll with a total cost of more than $11 million a year, and its executive director is making more than Gov. Mark Dayton.

Members of the MNsure Oversight Committee also have raised a number of concerns about data privacy and how MNsure would ensure the security of sensitive, personal information that Minnesotans will share on the website to sign up for health insurance.

We both asked questions relating to this at the latest hearing, and the answers supplied by MNsure executives made it clear that our concerns were legitimate. The data security systems put in place by MNsure are not fully tested nor adequate to guarantee the security of private data for the individuals who enroll.

Many other questions went unanswered.

Just days after the hearing, it was announced that private information of 2,400 health insurance brokers — including Social Security numbers — was compromised by a MNsure employee and sent to out by e-mail.

Dayton said he can personally and “absolutely” assure that the private information of Minnesotans would be safe. How can we trust his word, if MNsure does not have the proper procedures in place?

We have an obligation to exercise our statutory responsibility and make sure that, when MNsure is utilized by a million Minnesotans, their data will indeed be secure and not at risk of misuse.

If Minnesotans are afraid to use MNsure because of concerns about inadequate protections for their private data, the $150 million of taxpayer dollars dedicated to building a website could prove to be wasted money.

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Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, and Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, are members of the Minnesota Senate.

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