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Dayton advisers won’t attend MNsure hearing

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton said his advisers won’t testify before a legislative oversight committee today because Republicans are trying to turn the hearing on Minnesota’s health insurance exchange into “a farce.”

“They’re making a mockery of the word ‘oversight,’ ” Dayton said Tuesday during a news conference at the Capitol. “Now that it’s good news about MNsure, they want to go back and dredge up what happened six months ago.”

On Monday, Republicans on the oversight committee called for Dayton’s former chief of staff, MNsure’s former executive director and his current human services commissioner to comment on media reports that the administration knew MNsure would have problems before its Oct. 1 launch.

The Department of Human Services said Tuesday in a statement that Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will not attend the committee hearing. The other officials no longer work for the state, Dayton said.

MNsure will be represented at the hearing by Brian Beutner, board chairman; and Scott Leitz, interim chief executive.

Responding to the governor, Reps. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, and Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, said in a statement: “The MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee isn’t a ‘farce,’ it’s the law. … It’s clear we need more oversight.”

Dayton said that although he received a warning from MNsure on Sept. 19 that the website might not be able to go live in October, final checks later in the month suggested it was ready.

“I think that was the right decision,” Dayton said. “I didn’t have any inkling of persisting problems until the middle of November.”

From mid-November into December, problems for consumers mounted, Dayton said. That’s why he pushed for IBM Curam — a key software vendor for MNsure — to come and address problems that snagged thousands of applications, he said.

Many fixes worked, Dayton said, and MNsure has enrolled 175,000 in coverage. Noting that the Office of the Legislative Auditor is reviewing MNsure’s rocky rollout, Dayton said: “We made errors, I’m sure.”

Hoppe and Mack said in their statement that Dayton and MNsure “chose to expose Minnesotans to a program that wasn’t ready for consumers.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.