Duane Quam: MNsure, like federal exchange, wasn't ready for prime time
Minnesota's hub for Obamacare, MNsure, is now open to the public. Similar to the federal health insurance exchange that went live Oct. 1, MNsure's first days of operation were disappointing but, unfortunately, predictable — not a single person was able to complete the process and get insurance.
We now know that the federal exchange will undergo massive retooling because it was poorly designed. In the first two weeks of MNsure's open enrollment, thousands faced malfunctions, errors or long wait times. With the goal of enrolling 1.3 million Minnesotans into various forms of coverage, MNsure has barely 3,000 residents in the midst of the process (and most of those are government assistance applicants, not private insurance plan customers).
Many features that MNsure promised the public also have fallen short. For example, you cannot yet confirm if you'll be able to keep your doctor when you select a new coverage plan. You may remember the famous promise from President Barack Obama (and later Gov. Mark Dayton) that you "will be able to keep your doctor." It is now clear millions of Americans and many Minnesotans won't be able to keep their doctor under the Affordable Care Act.
Other concerns are popping up with MNsure's online process, including data controls, privacy warnings and what data is retained. I have other concerns about who from the state is handling your private, personal information. I'm currently drafting legislation that would provide safeguards and verification for all employees with access to your data — a courtesy all Minnesotans deserve from their government.
It appears MNsure officials are not completely aware of their legal obligations to protect data privacy. I have joined other colleagues in the Legislature in raising questions about how MNsure is following laws regarding its data practices disclosure (called the "Tennessen Warning"). This is the document users see when they create an account on MNsure's website to browse premiums. Other similar disclosures at state agencies offer an explanation of which employees will have access to a user's private data — yet MNsure says very little about this. It is also unclear whether MNsure has developed a mandatory data access chart, prescribing who in the organization has access to what. This is required by law. Additionally, it doesn't appear MNsure is fully compliant on explaining the agency's data retention policies for what information is stored and what is discarded.
As we learn more about the holes in our federal Obamacare agency process, it is also clear that Minnesota's newest center for bureaucracy is not buttoned up. These missteps put state government — and ultimately taxpayers — at risk for future litigation. More importantly, costs for many thousands of Minnesotans will increase, with us in southeastern Minnesota seeing a damaging impact due to this further government takeover of the health insurance market. In a world where identity theft grows by the day, it makes me uneasy knowing your private information may not be safe.
I hope to have more information for you as our state exchange continues to repair significant shortfalls that should have been addressed weeks ago in the "testing" phase.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in St. Paul.
Duane Quam, a Republican from Byron, represents District 25A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.