NEW ULM - A 15-member task force created to advise the Minnesota Department of Commerce in the design and development of a new health insurance marketplace for state consumers met with local and state officials and the public Wednesday afternoon in the New Ulm Medical Center auditorium.
The exchange will be an online marketplace for individuals and businesses to compare, choose, and buy health insurance by comparing health insurance options based on cost, quality, and consumer satisfaction.
Minnesotans will be able to buy private health insurance or enroll in public programs online. Subsidies and tax credits will be available to eligible people and small businesses to make coverage more affordable.
States have until Jan. 1, 2013 to create their own health insurance exchanges or the federal government will establish one, to be available to consumers beginning in 2014.
Led by Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, the task force includes consumers, employers, health care providers, insurers, state legislators, and other health care leaders.
Agenda topics were a status update of the exchange technical contract, race/ethnicity/language data partnership presentation, adverse selection work group recommendations and a public education and outreach market research report.
Jaime Martinez of Minneapolis-based, ClearWay Minnesota, a non-profit organization created to improve the health of all Minnesotans by cutting tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, said Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the nation but it has as many health care disparities as any place in the country.
"The work we have to do is Herculean," said work group co-leader Dannette Coleman of Medica. "What's our back-up plan? We need to get our program up and running in time so consumers don't have to rely on a federal program."
Brown County Commissioner Scott Windschitl, who has been in the health insurance business for more than 30 years, called creating the internet-based exchange a "formidable task."
"Not everyone in Brown County has a computer or is Internet savvy...People will inundate public services offices. People are confused," Windschitl said. "From an agent standpoint, we don't do this for free. Please keep that in mind when you make policies..."
Commissioner Richard Seeboth said the task force is tackling the problem from an academic level while trying to establish "a company" to tackle a public health care problem, tasks on two very different levels.
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