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Leitz detailed efforts aimed at addressing website glitches, with a team of experts from IBM working on-site over the last two weeks.

The Capitol Note: More than 53,000 to receive MNsure coverage

The MNsure Board held a final pre-launch meeting on Monday. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

The MNsure Board held a final pre-launch meeting on Monday. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

1.) Top officials at MNsure focused on positive developments during a Monday afternoon conference call, the final public meeting to address the state health insurance exchange before the beginning of coverage on Wednesday. Interim CEO Scott Leitz, who took over after executive director April Todd-Malmlov resigned earlier this month, said he and staffers had spent the previous two weeks working to get as many Minnesotans as possible enrolled in MNsure plans. As of last Friday, more than 53,000 people were prepared to receive coverage through the exchange; that total includes more than 19,000 individuals who have purchased insurance on the private market, a near-quadrupling  in that category since the end of November. Leitz detailed efforts aimed at addressing website glitches, which have been worked on by consultants from IBM working on-site over the last two weeks, and with MNsure’s call center, where wait times had been reduced from an average of nearly an hour to just 15 minutes.

Leitz also praised insurance companies for their willingness to extend the registration deadline to midnight on Tuesday, and to accept payments for new plans through Jan. 10. The former DHS assistant commissioner was, in turn, the recipient of a complimentary introduction from MNsure Board chairman Brian Beutner, who thanked Leitz for shepherding the project through the tense time since Todd-Malmlov’s departure. “We could not have found a better person for this job,” Beutner said.

2.) Midnight tonight marks a crucial fundraiser deadline for gubernatorial and federal candidates, with the annual reporting period for state-level contestants coinciding with the quarterly filing requirements for U.S. Senate and congressional candidates. In a fundraising email issued yesterday, Gov. Mark Dayton‘s re-election campaign manager, Katharine Tinucci, said the incumbent was about $7,000 shy of his monthly goal of $30,000; last week, Dayton told the Associated Press he expected to enter 2014 with about $1 million in total fundraising during the past year. GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden also used the deadline to plead for donations — “we need your help to make sure [DFL U.S. Sen.] Al Franken doesn’t buy another term” — as did 6th Congressional District candidate Tom Emmer, who urged supporters to “rush” a donation before the filing period ends.

3.) The Duluth News Tribune reported on two new candidates in Northland-area House races. Cloquet resident James Hamilton plans to run against Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, saying he would challenge the freshman legislator for the Democratic endorsement in House District 11A. Hamilton, a bar staffer and former National Guard member, said Sundin had missed too many votes in his first term. Also declaring his intention yesterday was Gary Anderson, a Duluth community organizer who will join the contest to replace retiring Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth. Anderson, a former yoga teacher, became involved in political organizing through his work on behalf of Minnesotans United for All Families; he is the fourth declared DFL candidate in that race so far. The district is thought to lean heavily toward the DFL, but two GOP candidates have also announced they will run for the open seat.

  • Veteran legislator Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, will be challenged for the 2014 district endorsement by fellow Democrat Mohamud Noor, a newly elected Minneapolis School Board member who told Minnesota Public Radio of his plans on Monday. Noor recognized Kahn’s efforts during her decades in the Legislature, but said she was “lacking that connection for the new Americans.” Noor, who won his school board position in November, has previously sought a Capitol position, losing a DFL primary contest for the state Senate in 2011.
  • The Minnesota Gun Owner’s PAC endorsed Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, in the state’s 2014 U.S. Senate race. The new political outfit’s president, Mark Okern, described Ortman as an “energetic and consistent advocate for Minnesota’s gun owners” in an accompanying press release.
  • Lobbyist Quinn Cheney added the Minnesota Biodiesel Council to her client list effective Monday. Cheney is the industry advocacy group’s fifth lobbyist currently on retainer.
  • Communications specialist Jake Loesch announced yesterday that he had proposed to conservative operative Abby Michaud during a trip to London, and that she had said yes. Loesch, formerly a staffer with the Republican Party of Minnesota, later moved on to communications work with the pro-gay marriage Minnesotans United for All Families, and now works with the national Freedom to Marry organization. Michaud has held a number of staffer roles in GOP and legislative politics, and currently serves as operations director at the Economic Club of Minnesota.


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