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Critics upset that MNsure director took two-week vacation during rocky rollout

MNsure’s Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov vacationed in Costa Rica over Thanksgiving, while problems plagued the health exchange website.

MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov was in Costa Rica during a two-week vacation over Thanksgiving, even as the state’s health exchange was continuing a rocky rollout with delays and crashes on its website.

Tom Steward of Watchdog.org reports that MNsure officials confirmed the vacation and say that Gov. Mark Dayton and the MNsure board were notified in advance of Todd-Malmlov’s vacation plan, and were supportive of it.

Last week in Maryland, the director of the that state’s health exchange resigned after officials learned that she had been vacationing in the Caribbean while the Maryland Heath Benefit Exchange foundered.

Here in Minnesota, Steward found small business owner Barb Stonebraker of Victoria, who has had major problems with the MNsure website and was outraged that the exchange head left the country during the exchange’s problems.

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“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s unconscionable that she would leave when there’s problems and they can’t figure it out,” Stonebraker said. “I’ve been trying and I’ve wasted so many hours and hours trying to get an invoice, and I still can’t.”

And state Sen. Michelle Benson, a Republican from Ham Lake who’s a member of the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee, told Steward:

“I think it’s disappointing when Minnesotans are facing chaos thanks to the changes from MNsure and not getting service that her priority wasn’t here in Minnesota.”

MNsure’s media relations coordinator, Jenni Bowring-McDonough, confirmed Todd-Malmlov’s vacation, but told Steward that it didn’t affect the health exchange operations:

“Our leadership here works very, very closely with April, and the rest of the MNsure staff are deeply trusted and have the full faith and trust of our executive director and were at the helm in partnership with April even when she was out of the office.

“It certainly was not a case of any gap in forward motion or any gap in work that needed to be completed and attended to because our commitment every day is to making the improvements that we need to make so that people can have the coverage they need starting Jan. 1.”

And Bowring-McDonough said Minnesota situation isn’t the same as in Maryland, where the director resigned:

“We’re aware of that, but I don’t know that we would draw any parallels there, though. Our board and the governor’s office were fully aware long before this trip took place and were supportive of it, and so I don’t see any parallel between the two given what I read in the story.”