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

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.

“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.”

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by mark wallek on 12/12/2013 - 11:00 am.

    On the gravy train

    Whatever this person earns, it’s far too much. She needs to be terminated for simple stupidity. Let’s not let this one cash in on our tax dollar as so many already are.

  2. Submitted by Kevin Watterson on 12/12/2013 - 11:22 am.

    I don’t know how you 1) even ask for time off at such a time, and 2) how in the world it gets approved. I worked at the Capitol for nine years, if I asked for time off a month from the end of the legislative session and said “Oh, but I’ll be available by phone” I’d be laughed out of the building with a box of my belongings.

    I can’t wrap my head around how not just one person but apparently a whole host of people thought this was okay.

  3. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/12/2013 - 03:42 pm.

    Ugh

    I voted for Obama twice and am a supporter of Obamacare (but would have preferred single payer) so don’t write me off as a hater. But the MNSure website is an absolute nightmare. I have spent hours and hours on this thing, and I’m still not enrolled. I spent about 2 hours just this afternoon and gave up again after being repeatedly kicked out.

    I was of the belief that heads needed to roll even before I heard about this. I might be able to forgive the incompetence, but the arrogance of taking a vacation now is a different story. If the Dayton administration believes in accountability at all, April Todd-Malmlov will be fired.

  4. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 12/13/2013 - 12:02 pm.

    Dayton says ten more days — help us survive

    Disgustingly, Dayton said he was going to give the situation with April Todd-Malmlov ten more days and then he would see. These ten days are critical, however, because enrollment must be completed by Dec. 23 for a policy effective date of Jan 1, 2014, and because the web site works so poorly many cannot enroll. At the same time, MNSure is not sending data to insurance companies as needed and the companies are informing at least some of us that if MNSure does not provide data, there will be no coverage on Jan. 1. Dayton obviously does not seem to comprehend the seriousness of this situation.

    The question is how many Minnesotans are going to be left uninsured on Jan. 1 because of MNSure staff incompetence. Todd-Malmlov has done enough harm and she should be immediately terminated.

    This situation is so typical of Dayton. Sadly, Dayton seem clueless about the extent of problems with the MNSure office and almost seems to have problems with his cognitive skills.

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