WAR OF WORDS: Dayton, GOP clash over MNsure 'oversight' - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

WAR OF WORDS: Dayton, GOP clash over MNsure 'oversight'

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Gov. Mark Dayton lashed out at critics of the state's new health insurance exchange on Tuesday, accusing Republicans of being too concerned with the troubled launch as they focus on Election Day.

"It's a farce," Dayton said. "They're making a mockery of the word 'oversight.'"

Dayton was worked up, but the best defense can be a good offense in the realm of politics -- and Republicans appear poised to pounce.

"There's good news about MNsure," Dayton insisted. "They want to dredge up what happened four months ago."

The governor criticized GOP lawmakers for failing to focus on the Minnesotans who are now getting health coverage as he answered questions about when he learned MNsure was in serious trouble. Although he calls it 20/20 hindsight, Republicans who are setting their sights on November call it a failure of leadership.

The timeline became the story after a Star Tribune investigation revealed a series of red flags prior to the Oct. 1 launch -- including a crisis meeting at the governor's mansion on Sept. 19 involving Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and former MNsure director April Todd-Malmlov. Yet, Dayton has said he only learned about MNsure's problems in November.

"I thought it was doing very well until the middle of November," he said.

Given the rampant glitches and long wait times that plagued the fledgling exchange, MNsure has become something of a favorite talking point among Republicans hoping to unseat Dayton.

"The campaign has started," political strategist Michael Brodkorb told Fox 9 News. "This is the issue."

Brodkorb believes Republicans will ride MNsure all the way to Election Day.

"It's a good issue for them to talk about size and scope of government," he explained.

According to Brodkorb, Dayton only adds to the confusion by praising MNsure one day and then criticizing it the next. While the governor doesn't directly control MNsure, he does appoint the board and the oversight committee is controlled by Democrats.

However, even Republicans can't agree whether they simply want to abolish the Affordable Care Act or replace it with something else -- and by November, if MNsure is doing well, the criticism may begin to sound hollow.

"Ultimately, it's going to come down to the Republican alternative," Brodkorb predicted. "If not MNsure, then what? That's the part they have to fill in."

With two separate audits under way, the questions about what went wrong with MNsure aren't going away. So far, Todd-Malmlov hasn't really offered an explanation. She did tell the Star Tribune that she would do things differently, but did not specify what she would change. Even the legislative auditor says he may be forced to get a subpoena to compel her testimony.

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