Balls & Strikes: Anatomy of a Resignation

BallsnStrikesApril Todd-Malmlov has resigned from MNsure, with some asking today if she was a scapegoat for the larger problems at MNsure. I agree with the author of the story that “it’s hard to feel schadenfreude” for Todd-Malmlov, as the problems with MNsure are much bigger than an ill-timed two-week vacation. But the failure by the leadership of MNsure to calm the growing public frustration about MNsure, including Todd-Malmlov’s trip, contributed to her resignation.

I’ve prepared a chronology of the last week to track the events leading to Todd-Malmlov’s regisnation. I agree with others that if Todd-Malmlov or any member of MNsure’s board would have spoken publicly about her work at MNsure, she wouldn’t have resigned.

AprilToddMalmlovHeadshotEarly December

‘In an interview earlier this month, Todd-Malmlov said she was in contact with her staff every day of the vacation, adding that MNsure officials knew how to contact her when needed. ‘People take time off routinely,’ Todd-Malmlov said. Of the timing of the trip, she said: ‘I really don’t think this was a crisis time.’

December 11th

  • Governor Dayton’s comments were the most critical to date about the problems with MNsure and it set up Todd-Malmov’s vacation to be highly scrutinized.

December 12th

  • Minutes before Governor Dayton was scheduled to have a press conference on Angel Loan Funds, reports of Todd Malmlov’s vacation to Costa Rica are made public by Tom Steward and Watchdog.org

ST. PAUL, Minn.— As thousands of frustrated Minnesotans were notified about glitches and errors in their applications on the state insurance exchange, April Todd-Malmlov took a two-week break.

Problem is, Todd-Malmlov is MNsure executive director. Her vacation, in November, included a trip to tropical Costa Rica.

It’s no surprise Gov. Dayton announced yesterday that the MNsure problems are keeping him up at night, and every Minnesotan should be concerned about the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare in Minnesota.  It is very concerning that MNsure’s top official left her post for two weeks, with new issues arising almost daily.  It is high time for Gov. Dayton to exercise leadership and fix MNsure in Minnesota.

When asked about it Thursday, Dayton said that Todd-Malmlov had worked ‘extraordinarily hard,’ and that he understood the vacation was long-planned.

‘I don’t know enough of the details, but it’s obviously a very critical time for MNsure — and that is, ultimately, her responsibility.’

  • For the remainder of December 12th, stories about Todd-Malmlov’s vacation dominate the news, along with residual stories about the problems with MNsure.

December 15th

Last week, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS learned the head of MNsure took an international vacation as the healthcare exchange website was dealing with several problems. Now, who she was with is raising new questions.

Sources tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the head of Minnesota’s Medicaid program was vacationing with the director of MNsure in Costa Rica at the end of November. MNsure said there’s no conflict of interest, but critics said it’s yet another issue of compromised public trust.

Medicaid and MNsure are intimately intertwined, with billions of taxpayer dollars overlapping between the two programs. For eight business days at the end of November — during a crucial time for the heathcare exchange — April Todd-Malmlov, the director of MNsure, and Jim Golden, Minnesota’s Medicaid director, were on vacation together in Costa Rica.

‘This is bad politics, in addition to being bad public relations for Mnsure,’ said University of Minnesota political analyst Larry Jacobs.

December 16th

  • Todd Molmlov’s vacation is still creating public relations headache for MNsure, but new problems are reported, as an estimated 1,000 people are informed they need to “redo their applications“:

About 1,000 MNsure users are being told they must redo their applications — quickly — in order to obtain federal tax credits to discount their health insurance costs next year.

The consumers initially were told they wouldn’t get tax credits because of problems in the MNsure system that were first disclosed in November.

The website wasn’t available Monday for people trying to fill out new applications.

Meanwhile, officials confirmed that MNsure call center callers who are put on hold are automatically disconnected after 60 minutes.

  • Republican candidate for governor, Scott Honour, called on April Todd-Malmlov to resign as the executive director of MNsure. In a statement from his campaign, Honour said:

Minnesotans are tired of excuses and apologies from Gov. Dayton regarding MNSure. It is time for Director Todd-Malmlov to submit her resignation.

MNSure is a disaster, in both design and execution.  From the security breaches including personal data being mishandled and hacking vulnerability, to a 41% average increase in monthly premiums, and hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans losing coverage.

December 17th

  • Just after 7pm on Wednesday evening, Todd-Malmlov resigns from MNsure.

The timing of when the news broke Todd-Malmlov’s vacation couldn’t have come a worse time. The repeated drip, drip, drip of bad stories about MNsure’s rollout, coupled with Todd-Malmlov’s vacation created a public relations nightmare. The statements by Governor Dayton and the rapid respond of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition to message against MNsure and Todd-Malmlov’s vacation made matters even worse. If Todd-Malmlov or other MNsure officials responded earlier, I don’t think anyone would be resigning from MNsure.

There are more problems to come for MNsure in the near future and it will be interesting to see if they will learn from this situation  and handle the next public relations snafu with greater success.

Balls and Strikes is a feature on politics.mn focused on examining the tactics and strategies of Minnesota politics, politicians and candidates.

One Comment

  1. ATM certainly bears responsibility for faulty work at MNSure and taking a two week (two weeks!) vacation in the middle of a disastrous start up was such poor judgement. But MNSure and Obamacare, government run healthcare was sure to fail. I would hope the MNSure Board, the legislature and Governor Dayton would begin to take responsibility for the problems, instead of scapegoating one woman and pretending like all is well now. Families have lost their insurance, premiums have gone up, these are very serious consequences to the DFLs poor policy decisions. The Governor and DFL Lawmakers made this mess, they need to clean it up.

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