An outside review of the MNsure health exchange problems by UnitedHealth Group division Optum found deep flaws that can't be completely fixed by the March 31 coverage deadline. In fact, it could be years before things work the way they're supposed to.
"While MNsure will fall short of achieving its original enrollment goals and consumer satisfaction levels, continuous improvements can be made in both the short-term and long-term," the report concluded.
In a way, the report is the cold, hard truth officials have suspected all along -- that the MNsure program is an understaffed technical mess, and that has management scrambling to figure out what to do next.
The report said MNsure could continue with its current system, but "the majority of attention must be focused on interim actions and manual efforts required to meet enrollment targets."
So far, only about 28,000 Minnesotans have signed up for individual health insurance through the online exchange. One insider told Fox 9 News that the entire program appears to have hit rock bottom.
Yet, the good news coming out of the MNsure debacle is that things will get better.
"We have some trust rebuilding to do with Minnesotans, and it's OK to say that," said Scott Leitz, interim CEO. "They have been patient with us and we're going to get there from here."
Although Leitz assured that a much better system will follow, he declined to specify exactly how. One suggested option from Optum is to can the current form and start all over with new vendors.
For now, the first priority will be to add staff to an already overwhelmed call center that is fielding more than 3,000 calls a day, leaving many callers to wait for nearly an hour.
"We understand their frustration," Leitz said. "We're going to be acting swiftly on the Optum recommendation to bring those call times down and make it a better consumer experience."
Even though the MNsure board now has a better roadmap of the problems they must tackle, one big question remains: How will they pay for it? The exchange received federal grants but is expected to be largely self-funded using a fee charged to insurance carriers.
March 31 is the federal deadline for health insurance coverage. After that date, people who don't have health insurance face a penalty.