Ex-MNsure board member: IT flaws, small population hurt exchange

A small individual market coupled with a flawed technical vision were the main reasons behind MNsure’s troubled rollout, a former board member of Minnesota’s public health insurance exchange told the Star Tribune. The beleaguered exchange has become representative of larger concerns regarding the viability of Affordable Care Act exchanges across the country.

In a Q&A with the newspaper, Tom Forsythe said Minnesota’s strong employment rate meant most residents were insured through their employer, which left the exchange with a much smaller risk pool and prompted instability within the individual market. He also noted that MNsure had a “terrible start” because of a disjointed IT rollout in which four different vendors tried to mesh several different “off-the-shelf IT modules” together.

“If you can be proud of anything as a board member, from those initial days, it’s that we pivoted and grabbed the organization by the lapels and pulled the organization out of the ditch and eventually made the thing operate,” he told the Star Tribune. “But it has still been burdened by that original flawed vision, and certainly we started out with tremendous missteps based on that initial flawed IT strategy.”

Insurers have also struggled on the exchanges. In June, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota announced it would pare down its individual and family plans in 2017, citing $500 million in losses since the state exchange opened. UnitedHealth has pulled out of most state exchanges, and Humana is will exit several individual markets. A state audit released earlier this year found Minnesota overpaid as much as $271 million for ineligible beneficiaries enrolled through MNsure thanks to a flawed IT system.

Forsythe also lamented potential policy decisions that would prompt further federal oversight of individual markets. Describing himself as a “market advocate,” he criticized President Barack Obama’s recent comments about implementing a public option in counties where competition is scarce, arguing it would have to be subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

- read the Star Tribune article