Minnesota has awarded Maximus Inc. a two-year, $41 million contract to create the state's new health insurance exchange website.

Reston, Va.-based Maximus is a government outsourcing company focused on health and human services agencies around the world and has more than $900 million in annual revenue.

The exchange -- one local lawmaker likened it to a Travelocity for health insurance -- will be a one-stop shop on the Web for individuals and businesses to buy health insurance and enroll in Medicaid coverage. It's expected to launch in the fall of 2013.

Such online exchanges are a key part of the federal health care law, and states are required to come up with their own state-based health exchanges or go with a federal exchange.

The Maximus contract covers developing technology to support the functions of the exchange, such as displaying the health benefit plan options and costs and determining a person's eligibility. It also includes modernizing the state's Medicaid systems, and creating a way for the state Department of Health to give shoppers information on the quality of providers.

Maximus was chosen after a yearlong selection process in which five or six vendors submitted bids, according to Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. Maximus will work with subcontractors, including Connecture Inc. in Waukesha, Wis., which will support the enrollment and sales functions of the new exchange.

"They rose to the top," Rothman said. "It's a very, very strong team."

Leslie Wolfe, a division president for Maximus, said in an interview that it's been working on solutions for health insurance exchanges ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed, but that just a few states have actually hit the go button.

"Very few states have actually awarded contracts for their health insurance exchange," Wolfe said. "It's been a fairly slow uptake because of the unknowns."

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683