State submits health care application

Published 7:43 pm Saturday, November 17, 2012

ST. PAUL — Minnesota is ahead of many other states facing a deadline to declare whether they will set up a health care marketplace to help people and small businesses get private insurance.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton began pushing to develop a state-tailored health insurance exchange shortly after taking office in early 2011. That reversed the position taken by his Republican predecessor Tim Pawlenty, who blocked a $1 million grant for the project.

Two years later, Minnesota has received more than $70 million in federal grants to develop its own exchange, and much of the state’s progress report is online for consumers to see.

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Minnesota Management and Budget said the state submitted its application outlining the project’s progress to the federal government on Friday, even after the Obama administration granted states a month’s extension to Dec. 14 after Republican governors asked for more time. The state also is seeking another $39 million grant to finish developing the health insurance exchange.

The report shows key decisions have yet to be made — including how to pay for the exchange starting in 2015, how it will be run and what benefits the plans offered on the marketplace must offer. The Legislature is expected to grapple with those questions early next year when Democrats take control with new majorities.

The health insurance marketplace is expected to resemble a travel website like Expedia, giving more than a million state residents and small businesses an easy way to compare and buy health insurance plans, using subsidies if they qualify.