April 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.
- The Pioneer Press reported on December 12th they asked Todd-Malmlov in early December about her vacation to Costa Rica:
‘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.’
- The Pioneer Press new about T0dd-Malmlov’s vacation before it was reported by Tom Steward and Watchdog.org.
- One day before the news broke of Todd-Malmov’s vacation, Governor Mark Dayton told a meeting of the Minnesota Association of Counties that problems with MNsure “keeps him awake at night.”
- 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.
- 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.
- The Minnesota Jobs Coalition quickly released a statement before Governor Dayton’s press conference, connecting Todd-Malmlov’s trip with the other MNsure issues which were keeping Governor Dayton awake:
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.
- The Media is able to directly ask Governor Dayton about Todd-Malmlov’s trip and his comments offered luke-warm support:
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.
- More details emerge about Todd-Malmlov’s vacation, as KSTP reports that she went on a vacation to Costa Rica with the head of Minnesota’s Medicaid program:
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.
- KSTP also reported the legislative oversight committee for MNsure hadn’t met in over three months.
- 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.
- It was also reported that people were being dropped from calls after being on hold for more than 60 minutes:
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.
- Republican leadership in the Minnesota Legislature has a press conference to talk about the problems with MNsure. According to press reports, no mention is made of Todd-Malmlov’s vacation.
- On Wednesday afternoon, Republican candidate for governor Marty Seifert called on Todd-Malmlov to resign.
- 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.