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MNsure director under fire for tropical vacation

Posted by: Baird Helgeson under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, National campaigns, Democrats, Republicans, President Obama, State budgets Updated: December 16, 2013 - 3:30 PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour is calling for the resignation of the executive director of the state’s fledgling health insurance exchange following revelations she took a weeklong tropical vacation as the online insurance marketplace was swamped with problems.

“I can’t imagine the head of a company being on vacation during a major product rollout,” said Honour, a businessman. “So for the head of MNSure to be on vacation in Costa Rica during the troubled rollout of a government program that affects the lives of almost every Minnesotan is beyond belief.”

MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov took a weeklong vacation to Costa Rica with state Medicaid director James Golden late last month. The two have worked closely on the implementation of the new health insurance exchange.

Spokespersons from MNsure and the Minnesota Department of Human Services said there is no conflict of interest in Todd-Malmlov and Golden’s relationship.

A statement said Todd-Malmlov does not supervise Golden and that they work for entirely different agencies.

"There is no reporting relationship,” a statement said.

"While Mr. Golden plays an important role with MNsure regarding public programs, ultimate authority and responsibility resides further up in the organization," state Department of Human Services officials wrote in a statement. "During his absence there were senior officials deeply involved in the project, including an assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner and commissioner. While he was away Mr. Golden was in regular contact with them and MNsure."

Neither Todd-Malmlov nor Golden could immediately be reached for comment. According to Star Tribune records, the two live together in St. Paul.

The state’s new insurance program has had a rocky rollout, leaving consumers frustrated and angry.

The success of the insurance exchange has enormous political consequences locally and nationally, as Republicans hammer on missteps created by President Obama’s health care overhaul.  

Gov. Mark Dayton has not defended the Costa Rican trip, saying Todd-Malmlov is responsible for her own vacation decisions.

Todd-Malmlov was hired by the independent MNsure board, not Dayton.

"MNSure is a disaster, in both design and execution,” Honour said.

"Normally, I’d call on the governor to replace the director, but, the Obamacare exchange law he helped create and signed puts MNsure beyond oversight of the governor or the Legislature,” he said. “MNsure’s board is accountable only to itself.”

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