Minnesota making progress in health-insurance exchangesMinnesota is ahead of most states when it comes to setting up health-insurance exchanges, one of the people involved said last week.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota is ahead of most states when it comes to setting up health-insurance exchanges, one of the people involved said last week.
“There are a couple of states that are out ahead of us, but we are fairly close to the front of the pack,” said Phillip Cryan of the labor union SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “California and Connecticut are further along, but Minnesota has done a great job of catching up incredibly quickly on this.”
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, every state must have a health-insurance exchange, which is intended to help consumers make advantageous choices for insurance plans, by Jan. 1, 2014. To reach that goal, states will have to make most of their big decisions by the end of this year, Cryan said.
Cryan is part of a 15-member task force to shape Minnesota’s decisions that also includes state Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth; state Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick; and Phil Norrgard, director of human services for the Fond du Lac Band, among others. It’s acting under the auspices of the state
Department of Commerce and not the state Legislature, Cryan said, because Republican legislators essentially washed their hands of the matter.
Last month, a Senate committee voted down on party lines a Lourey bill to establish health exchanges. Gov. Mark Dayton sent key Republicans a letter complaining they were taking a “piecemeal” and “ideological” approach to the issue.
But Republicans responded that Dayton had failed to offer his own vision of how a health exchange would function.
“He hasn’t presented us with anything that we could try and talk about,” said state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, according to TwinCities.com. “How do we do the serious business we have to do at the Senate without him calling it ‘playing politics’?”
Several other states are working out their insurance exchange plans without enabling legislation, Cryan said. If the state does nothing at all, the federal Department of Health and Human Services will impose its own version. “You would think (Republicans) would be even more concerned about the federal government setting up an exchange for us having foregone their ability to shape it at the state level,” he said.
The exchange is expected to be used by between 500,000 and a million Minnesotans who aren’t covered through workplace health-insurance plans, or Medicare or Medicaid, Cryan said.
“You will be able to go to this exchange website in one place and be presented with clear and easy-to-understand information about your insurance options,” he said. “And we can set it up so you can be assured that your choices will be good ones.”
For individuals who need more help or don’t have access to the Internet, “navigators” will be appointed to guide them through the process, Cryan said.
All of this could be moot, though, if the Supreme Court declares the entire Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional. A ruling is expected in June. Cryan said he believes the court might throw out the individual insurance mandate, but it’s much less likely to throw out the entirety of the act.