A final vendor to build Minn.'s insurance platform hired

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 23, 2012 - 9:15 PM

IBM software will determine people's eligibility for the various programs to be offered.

Minnesota has all of the vendors in place to start building the technology infrastructure for a state health insurance exchange, a new marketplace to help consumers and small businesses buy health coverage in 2014.

IBM became the state's fourth and final vendor on Monday, announcing that its software will be used to determine Minnesotans' eligibility for Medicaid and private insurance through the exchange, as well as federal tax credits available to lower out-of-pocket costs.

IBM will be a subcontractor for Maximus, a Reston, Va., company awarded a $41 million contract last week to take the lead on building the platform for the exchange.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman described the IBM contract as a "significant milestone" in the effort, enabling the state to move forward on building the technology backbone.

Insurance exchanges are a key component of the federal health care law that recently withstood a Supreme Court challenge. States have until Nov. 15 to submit plans to the federal government to prove they can run their own exchanges. States that fail to get certified will use a federal exchange.

More than 1 million Minnesotans are expected to use the exchanges, which are promoted as a user-friendly way to shop online or on the phone for the best insurance plan.

The exchanges remain controversial in many states, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The high court gave states leeway to determine whether they will expand Medicaid, the state-federal program covering the poor. People qualifying for the benefits would access them through the exchanges.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing ahead on creating an exchange, even though legislators have failed to pass a bill to create the exchange during the previous two legislative sessions.

IBM's software program was designed by Curam Software, a Dublin, Ireland-based company IBM purchased in December. The software is used in more than 80 government projects around the world in health and human services, workforce service and social security organizations. It has been used to help governments verify such things as food stamps, workers' compensation and income support.

"On the face of it, these things would look to be different than health care," said Ernie Connon, former president of Curam Software in North America and IBM's vice president of Health and Human Services Industry Solutions. "But if you think of it as a technology data problem, underneath there's a lot of commonality across programs."

The Curam software is being used in health insurance exchanges in other states, but Connon declined to name them.

As the primary vendor, Maximus will design and develop some technical capabilities of the exchange and act as the glue among all the technical components.

Maximus has hired two other subcontractors in the effort. EngagePoint, of Fort Launderdale, Fla., will design the billing and other financial management activities. Connecture, of Waukesha, Wis., will work on enrollment and insurance sales.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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