A subcommittee of a state task force recommended Monday continuing with a state-run health insurance exchange like MNsure for now, rather than transferring Minnesotans to the national exchange called HealthCare.gov
Moving to the federal website would be costly and wouldn't work with the state's MinnesotaCare insurance program, said a report endorsed by the 11-person subcommittee of the state task force on health care finance.
Plus, by moving to HealthCare.gov, the state would lose control over its network of health insurance navigators that help people enroll in coverage, according to the report.
"The committee overwhelmingly voted not to move to HealthCare.gov at this point," said chairwoman Lynn Blewett, who is a health care researcher at the University of Minnesota.
The recommendations will be taken up Friday by the full Health Care Financing Task Force, which the Legislature created last May. The task force will decide what changes in Minnesota's insurance marketplace get proposed to the Legislature this year.
Early last year, Republicans in the state House proposed a switch to the federal website in response to continued struggles with MNsure, which Minnesota launched in 2013 to implement the federal Affordable Care Act.
Minnesota was one of more than a dozen states to launch their own exchange, which is an option for people who buy private insurance on their own outside of employer groups.
HealthCare.gov, meanwhile, serves as the exchange in most states, including a few that tried to launch their own marketplaces but ultimately gave up.
After technical problems and consumer frustration in its first year, MNsure has improved but continues to fall far short of original projections for enrollment.
"If we find a path for MinnesotaCare that would let us conform with the feds, then [HealthCare.gov] comes back on the table," said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, a subcommittee member. But she added: "There are just too many things that have to be done before we can make that move."
The subcommittee recommended continuing with a state-based health insurance exchange but made a point not to call it MNsure in its final recommendations.
"It could be MNsure, or it could be something else," Blewett said. "I think there continues to be frustration with the glitches and the problems."
The recommendations related to MNsure are part of a broader set of recommendations that the subcommittee adopted on a 7-3 vote, with one abstention. The report calls for an expansion of the MinnesotaCare program, as well as continuing a tax collected by health care providers that's currently scheduled to end in 2019.