- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s health exchange named an experienced former insurance executive as the sole finalist Wednesday to take over as the fourth CEO of the embattled, three-year-old organization.

MNsure board members publicly identified Mark Nyquist as the lone finalist for the position. Nyquist has previously worked as a vice president at UnitedHealth Group and several private consulting businesses with clients in the health care field.

Board chair Peter Benner said MNsure received 42 applications for the top job, which opened in May when its then-CEO resigned to take a different job, and interviewed 11 candidates. But in the end, Benner said only Nyquist and another candidate fit the bill for a very public and demanding job atop the state’s health exchange. The second candidate dropped out of the running as the state’s public disclosure requirements loomed.

“You don’t bring names forward so that you bring names forward,” he said. “You bring names forward because you, as a group, are comfortable and convinced that the person can do the job.”

Nyquist did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

It’s unclear when his candidacy will come up for a final vote, and Benner stressed that Nyquist does not yet have the job simply because he’s the only remaining candidate. Benner said Nyquist would need to meet with more board members and MNsure staff before they would schedule such a vote.

Allison O’Toole has served as chief executive since May, when former leader Scott Leitz left to take a job with a health care think tank. O’Toole opted not to apply for the job permanently.

Her successor will take over as MNsure is in the midst of its third open enrollment period, though O’Toole said Wednesday that she would stay on through registration at the end of January.

O’Toole said the exchange’s third round is a “night and day” difference from its launch in 2013, when a glitch-ridden website and lengthy call wait times made for a troubled rollout. MNsure will provide a first glimpse at enrollment later this month.

But the shadow of that rocky start will hang over MNsure’s next executive, who will field routine inquiries from Republican lawmakers who say the exchange’s troubles mean it’s time for the state to switch to the federal marketplace.

“You are available and very public,” O’Toole said.

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Follow Kyle Potter on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kpottermn

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