Minn. county complains about cost of 'ineffective' IT system

Hennepin County, the most populous county in Minnesota, said it will be forced to hire 92 new employees because of new requirements involving the MNSure health insurance exchange, which the county labels “an ineffective system,” reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

280,000 Medicaid enrollees statewide, and about 41,000 within the county, are due to be transferred from an old computer system into MNSure. To complete the transfer and fulfill a new requirement for eligibility checks, Hennipin County Board Chair Jan Callison said the county will be forced to hire 92 new employees because of the difficulties with the MNSure IT.

“When MNsure was initiated in 2013, counties were assured that an effective state system would automate most routine work and facilitate the ability of our staff to respond to the needs of our residents," Callison wrote in a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton. "Since then, it's been three years of incremental improvements, temporary fixes and manual work-arounds for public health care programs, most of which counties are not responsible."

The county workers would use MNSure’s IT system to handle cases in the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medical Assistance. Callison complained in her letter that the IT system remains slow for managing cases, and asked Gov. Dayton to address “systemic inefficiencies.”

Governor’s office spokesman Matt Swenson told the Star-Tribune that the concerns are being taken seriously, and state agencies are working on improving the technology.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), which administers the Medicaid program along with counties, the new IT system is being asked to perform tasks its predecessor wasn’t required to do, like making instantaneous checks of eligibility from a federal database.

“This has resulted in both manual workarounds and an ongoing need for workers to maintain and update their knowledge of system functionality and procedures,” DHS said in a statement.

If Hennepin County decides to move forward with the new hires, Callison said the staffing costs would have to be covered by an additional $1.7 million in county spending, along with $3 million in federal and state funds.