The latest MNsure crisis is perplexing for a multitude of reasons. First, let's establish a foundation of verifiable facts, starting with the fact that 16,000 people tried applying for MinnesotaCare through MNsure, the Obamacare website that's still failing didn't get notified that Minnesota's Department of Human Services needed more information to process these families' applications. We know that Human Services didn't expedite the mailing of these notifications. We know that because some people are still getting their notification letters.
Thanks to Heather Carlson's and Brianna Jett's reporting, we now know something more disturbing than finding out that Human Services didn't expedite these notices. Specifically, we know that Olmstead County notified Human Services in January that applicants weren't insured:
The recent revelation that the state failed to send out letters to 16,000 low-income Minnesotans seeking medical assistance to let them know their applications had not been processed and they were not covered does not surprise Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.
“Every county has been screaming that we didn’t think notices were going out, and the state kept saying yes, yes, yes, people are just forgetting this. We had a really strong sense that they weren’t and finally it’s been confirmed that they weren’t going to our people,” Fleissner said.
It's important that we reach the right conclusions from this crisis.
First, it's important that the Dayton administration admitted that MNsure still isn't functional and that it won't be functional during this year's open enrollment period. We know it won't be functional thanks to Deloitte Consulting's report. Deloitte's report said that 41 of the website's 73 sub-functions either don't exist or won't be operational by November.
Second, we know that manual work-arounds will be needed to process the new claims and renewals for a second straight year. We know that because most of MNsure's sub-functions either don't exist or don't work right. When Scott Leitz was questioned about MNsure's dysfunctionality, he blamed it on the tight time frame of taking MNsure from the legislative stage through implementation. That won't work this year because it's the second year of operations for MNsure.
Third, we know that counties across the state told the Department of Human Services in January that the manual work-around wasn't working. We know this thanks to Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.
Fourth, we know, again thanks to Director Fleissner, that Human Services insisted that the problem was fixed.
Fifth, we know that Human Services' claims that this problem was fixed isn't true because they admitted that they still haven't fixed the problem as of last week. That means that this catastrophe still isn't fixed 6 months after Human Services was first notified.
What we don't know is as disturbing as what we know.
First, we don't know why Human Services didn't properly monitor this manual work-around. Was a procedure put into place to verify that the work-around was functioning properly? If there was a procedure in place, why wasn't it followed? If there wasn't a procedure in place, why wasn't a procedure put in place?
Second, if a procedure was supposed to be put into place, would anyone at MNsure or at Human Services know who was responsible for implementing and monitoring the system?
Third, did Gov. Dayton take an interest in finding out whether MNsure was operating properly? Certainly, he'd heard that MNsure was having significant difficulties. Did he just assume that his staff would take care of things? If that's what he thought, why was he that indifferent to the problem? Or was it that he simply didn't know enough about MNsure to ask the right questions?
Fourth, did Gov. Dayton give Lucinda Jesson the assignment of monitoring MNsure and making sure things were getting fixed in a timely fashion? If he didn't, why didn't he? Leitz was just starting his job. He certainly didn't know who was responsible for which things.
Finally, why didn't this catastrophe get fixed faster? Is this administration that incompetent? Or is it that indifferent to government's responsibilities?