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State receives $1-million Federal grant to plan health insurance exchange

February 25, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 25, 2011

State receives $1-million Federal grant to plan health insurance exchange

State agencies working together, empowering Minnesota consumers to make affordable health care decisions

ST. PAUL, MN - Governor Mark Dayton announced today that the state has received a $1 million federal grant to plan for the establishment of a Health Insurance Exchange in Minnesota. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will be administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The grant was made possible through Governor Dayton's request to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to consider Minnesota's delayed application and the efforts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review and approve that application.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the grant will be put to use immediately.

"This grant will provide the needed planning resources to create an Exchange unique to our state that will simplify health care for Minnesota families, individuals and businesses," Rothman said. "It will foster competition between insurers, make health care more affordable, and empower individuals and employees of small businesses to choose the health insurance coverage that best fits their personal and family needs."

Efforts to develop Minnesota's Health Insurance Exchange are already underway.

Governor Dayton has been working closely with Commissioner Rothman, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, and Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger on preliminary plans for the Exchange. In the coming weeks, the Dayton Administration will offer an Exchange proposal that brings greater health care value to Minnesota consumers in a convenient, user-friendly format.

Health Insurance Exchange Director April Todd-Malmlov compares the Exchange to a website much-like Travelocity or Expedia.com.

"At the click of a mouse, Minnesota consumers will have access to simplified information and affordable health care options they have never had before," said Malmlov. "The Exchange will allow Minnesotans to easily compare health care coverage options based on cost, quality, and consumer satisfaction."

According to Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, the Exchange will empower Minnesotans to make health care decisions that are best for them and their families, rather than what's best for insurance companies. 

"For the first time ever, Minnesotans will have access to affordable health insurance, regardless of their health history," Jesson said. "That is good for Minnesota families and good for our economy."

Bipartisan health reforms passed in 2008 made Minnesota a national leader in fostering high-value health care. Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger says the new Exchange will build on those reforms and demonstrate again Minnesota's unique commitment to cost-effective health reform.

"This grant has given Minnesota another important opportunity to lead the nation in health care quality, value, and affordability," Ehlinger said. "We are going to do this the Minnesota way. Minnesota's innovative spirit and our commitment to quality and value will deliver the best possible service to the people of our state, and help ensure optimal health and wellness in Minnesota."