Minnesota Obamacare Exchange Tech Failure Imperils Coverage For 16,000 Medicaid Applicants

Minnesota’s Obamacare marketplace failed to tell 16,000 low-income applicants that their applications needed more information to apply for Medicaid, forcing them to languish for six months without coverage.

Customers who applied for Medicaid through the Obamacare exchange should have been sent notices asking for more information about whether they qualify for Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s form of Medicaid, but the letters were never sent, Pioneer Press reports.

Further information was necessary because MNsure is not yet able to automatically verify Medicaid eligibility. The state has been using a workaround while the exchange attempts to build the technology, but the process broke down in February.

“The result of folks not getting this notice is that they’ve been in this pending status for some number of months — as many as six — waiting for some indication,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services official Chuck Johnson.

“We understand that this is unacceptable to have not been sending these notices for this period of time — to have left people in this ambiguous status,” Johnson said. “We’re working to fix it as quickly as possible.”

State officials claim that they have finally notified the 16,000 customers and that for those who are found eligible, the state will cover any medical costs incurred when they should have been covered. Johnson acknowledged that many people may have delayed care while they waiting for months to hear back about their coverage. (RELATED: Woman Suing Obamacare Exchange Dies)

“We apologize for the failure to provide these system-generated notices,” Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson wrote Wednesday to county officials. “This mistakes makes matters more difficult for you, our partners, and more critically, for the people we serve.”

A spokesman for the state-run Obamacare exchange denied that the lapse was at all the Obamacare exchange’s fault, blaming the Medicaid program instead.

“It’s not MNsure’s job to send the notices,” said Joe Campbell, an exchange spokesman. “The jointly owned system generated the notices and sent them for processing, as has been the process in place for months.”

It’s not clear when MNsure will be able to automate the Medicaid enrollment process.

“We’re in a transition period here from technology we’ve had for 25 years into new technology,” Johnson said. “That transition in any circumstance would be challenging, but it’s certainly been challenging given the speed with which we had to bring this new system up due to the timelines in the Affordable Care Act.”

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