Minnesota gets cash to plan health exchanges

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2011 - 8:15 PM

$4.2 million federal grant will help the state meet its health care reform deadline.

Minnesota will get $4.2 million from the federal government to continue creating a health insurance exchange where individuals, families and small businesses can shop for coverage starting in 2014.

The money is part of a $185 million award announced Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services that will go to 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The grant comes on top of $1 million Minnesota received in February to start planning the exchanges, a key part of health care reform law. States are supposed to have the basics for an exchange in place by 2013, though the federal government said recently that it would be flexible with states that are making efforts to move forward.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, whose department will administer the grant, said it will be used to continue work on technical infrastructure and design. The department also is forming an advisory task force.

A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the law on Friday, striking down the mandate that all Americans carry insurance or pay a fine. Exchanges may not be affected, however, as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta also deemed other provisions of the law "legally operative." The ruling will not be the final word, as the issue seems certain to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

While some state Republicans campaigned against the federal health care reform law, there generally is bipartisan support of the notion that Minnesota should take charge of creating its own exchange. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supported a bill last session that would have moved the state forward on the exchange effort, though it never got out of committee.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a champion of the reform law, said exchanges will help lower health care costs for the state's citizens.

Duluth DFLer Tom Huntley said "Bipartisanly, the insurance exchange has support and it's important we work together to get this right."

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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