Gov. Mark Dayton repeatedly declined to comment on Thursday about whether he asked former MNsure head April Todd-Malmlov to step down earlier this week.
Todd-Malmlov, during her resignation at a closed board meeting on Tuesday, said she stepped down “to protect the welfare and privacy of [her] family,” according to an email she sent to MNsure staff that evening. Scott Leitz, a senior Department of Human Services official, replaced Todd-Malmlov as the head of the struggling health insurance exchange in a new CEO position.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Dayton said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he ordered Todd-Malmlov’s departure. “I’ve been closely involved for the last few months, and I’ve said publicly my extreme displeasure with the way MNsure was going.”
Dayton, echoing Leitz’s comments to reporters on Wednesday, apologized to Minnesotans for the exchange’s poor performance and technical glitches.
“I apologize to those Minnesotans who have been seriously inconvenienced or distraught by the failure MNsure,” the governor said at a press conference on Thursday. “It’s unacceptable.”
Dayton said he has been closely involved with MNsure for the last seven months and had daily conference calls with staff as the exchange opened on Oct. 1. Seemingly responding to Republican criticisms from last week that he take responsibility for the exchange’s failings, Dayton said “the buck stops here” when it comes to problems with MNsure.
But Dayton noted that he has “indirect influence” on MNsure, which is governed by an independent seven-member board. “That’s just the way it was set up, so that’s the way I operate in that legal parameter.”
The governor spared no words on Todd-Malmlov, but spoke highly of Leitz’s work running Minnesota’s Medicaid program. He said Leitz came highly recommended from Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and others. Leitz is one of Jesson’s most trusted deputies.
“MNsure’s in this very, very challenging time, and challenging times call for your best people,” Jesson, who is also a MNsure governing board member, said after a meeting on Wednesday. “I certainly didn’t want to lose Scott Leitz from DHS, even for a month, but challenging times call for sending your best people, and I can’t think of anyone better to help in a crisis than Scott Leitz.”
Jesson said Dayton didn’t decide that Leitz would fill in for Todd-Malmlov while a national search is under way to find her permanent successor.
“The governor was very happy that Scott agreed to step up and do this, but it was a board decision,” she said.