- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota’s online health insurance marketplace announced Deloitte Consulting on Wednesday as the lead manager to overhaul its troubled website and computer systems, citing the company’s record of success in other states.

MNsure’s contract with Deloitte is worth $4.95 million and will run through the end of the year once the federal government formally approves it. MNsure’s interim CEO, Scott Leitz, said federal officials understand the urgency so he hopes to get that go-ahead within a week or two.

Deloitte’s main task will be to provide a better experience for consumers when the next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15, as well as for the insurance plans, counties and others who also work with the system, Leitz said.

Deloitte officials told MNsure’s board they’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done to fulfil those goals after a 60-day assessment period, but said their team includes people who have helped set up successful exchanges in other states.

“We’ve got a very experienced team that we’re bringing on site and are really excited to get going,” Deloitte partner Steve Dahl said.

New York-based Deloitte was one of the original bidders for the contract to build Minnesota’s exchange, but Deloitte wanted $20 million more than the state was willing to pay at the time. The contract went instead to Reston Va.-based Maximus Inc., but the state took back control of the project early last year amid concerns about slow progress and missed deadlines.

Technical problems marred MNsure’s launch last October and persisted for months, frustrating thousands of people who tried to meet deadlines for enrolling for health care coverage set by the federal Affordable Care Act. Minnesota’s legislative auditor, James Nobles, said last week that he plans to conduct an independent review of what went wrong.

Nearly 190,000 Minnesotans have signed up for coverage through MNsure, however, and the exchange offers some of the lowest premium rates in the country. Minnesota was one of 14 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to set up their own exchanges instead of sending their residents into the federal exchange.

MNsure’s announcement pointed to Deloitte’s success in designing and developing exchanges for Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Washington state, which it called “national models of simple design, effective technology, and stable websites.”

Minnesota joined Maryland and Nevada in turning to Deloitte for help with their struggling exchanges. Maryland decided earlier this month to scrap its badly flawed system and replace it with technology Deloitte developed for Connecticut. Oregon’s severely troubled exchange terminated a limited contract with Deloitte for advice on future technology options and is considering switching to the federal website instead of adopting technology from another state, but Deloitte still remains involved with Oregon’s turnaround efforts.

Leitz told reporters that MNsure is not currently considering replacing its system and is focusing instead on making the necessary improvements.

And Leitz deftly ducked a question about whether MNsure should have picked Deloitte in the first place - a decision made long before he was brought in.

“What we’re looking at now is how do we take what we have in place in the system and continue to improve it and continue to get ready for fall open enrollment,” he said. “We’re really pleased they’re joining us right now.”

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