State gets $42.5M toward health exchange

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2012 - 9:23 PM

The federal money will go for development of an insurance marketplace.

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Families USA, an advocacy group that supported President Obama’s health care overhaul, has an autographed copy of the final bill at its headquarters in Washington.

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Minnesota has received $42.5 million in its third federal grant to help design and develop a health insurance exchange.

In all, the state has received $70.3 million to help it plan and build a new marketplace aimed mostly at small businesses and individuals, to help them shop around for affordable health insurance coverage.

The grant will be used to continue technical work to build the exchange, which consumers will access either online or by phone starting in 2014.

"With open enrollment starting on Oct. 1, 2013, this grant is urgently needed to perform the critical development work to keep the project on track," the exchange's director, April Todd-Malmlov, said in a statement Thursday.

The exchanges are a key part of the federal health care law. The law gives latitude to the states in building exchanges that best suit their needs. States that choose not to build an exchange will use one built by the federal government.

Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has backing from business groups and some Republicans for a Minnesota-made exchange, but many of the most controversial details will be worked out in the coming year. The GOP-dominated state House and Senate have failed to pass a bill creating an exchange, and the Dayton administration has pushed forward using executive orders.

Earlier this week, South Dakota became the latest state to declare that it wouldn't set up an exchange, joining a handful of other states, including Texas and Florida. South Dakota's Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said paying for the exchange would require him to charge a fee or raise taxes, which he said he wouldn't do.

Presidential contender Mitt Romney, whose home state of Massachusetts has a state-level exchange up and running, has vowed to repeal the federal law if elected.

Minnesota was one of six grant recipients announced Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services. Also getting awards were Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Specifically, Minnesota will use the money to develop a program for brokers, navigators and community service programs; to begin doing consumer testing and evaluation; to continue building the financial system framework; and to assess costs and security measures, according to the grant proposal.

To date, 49 states and the District of Columbia have received federal planning grants, and 34 states and the district have received money to start building exchanges.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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