After word last week of a big backlog in public health insurance renewals in MNsure, Republicans want a legislative oversight committee to begin talking about fundamental changes for the state’s health insurance exchange.

“The dialogue has to start on how do we transition from a failed system, to something that actually, mechanically works for Minnesotans,” said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, during a news conference near the State Capitol on Monday.

Republicans have talked about dumping MNsure in favor of the federal government’s website, which serves as the health exchange in most states.

But Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said such a move wouldn’t solve problems at the state’s Medicaid and MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs.

Lourey said he also thinks it’s time for the oversight committee to meet, but said talk of fundamental changes should come from a task force that’s scheduled to deliver recommendations to the Legislature early next year.

“It’s not an easy process ahead of us, no matter what route we choose, to tell you the truth,” Lourey said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Last week, the state Department of Human Services notified legislators about a backlog of about 180,000 renewals in the MNsure system.

Problems were first reported by the Star Tribune in May when the state learned about a technical problem that held up automatic renewals for about 55,000 cases.

State officials described a plan for addressing the backlog this summer. The delays thus far have prevented the state from sending invoices to many in the state’s MinnesotaCare program, where enrollees currently pay from $0 to $50 per month. They also create “program integrity” risks, since some could be receiving coverage from state programs when they don’t actually qualify.

Lourey and Davids are co-chairs of the oversight committee, which the Legislature created in 2013 as part of the original MNsure law. Davids said it’s currently up to Lourey to call the next meeting.

“We don’t have all the answers right now as far as what the final product is going to look like, but we better start talking about it,” Davids said. “We’re probably too late for 2016 already, because this will probably take some legislation.”

Lourey also said that substantial changes would require action by the Legislature.

Through a combination of state and federal Medicaid dollars, plus a federal grant, Minnesota is making significant investments to improve the MNsure information technology system used for people in public health insurance programs. A key question, Lourey said, is whether switching to would impact funding for the IT repairs.

One thing that’s clear, Lourey said, is that Minnesota can’t go back to its old computer system for determining if people qualify for public programs, and actually getting them enrolled.

One task ahead is to figure out what portion of the new MNsure system for public programs can be salvaged, said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, during the news conference.

“We have people out there who have insurance, but don’t have bills. … So, they don’t know how much they really owe, or if they’re really insured,” Dean said. “We also have people who think they are insured, but they’re not.”


Twitter: @chrissnowbeck