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A Dozen States Already Showing Leadership on Health Insurance Marketplaces

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Categories: Health, Reform

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Because of the Supreme Court’s clear and final decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, middle class families and small businesses have greater security when it comes to health care – they can keep their current coverage or, if they need to or want to, search for new, affordable insurance options. In 2014, we can look forward to new state-based health insurance marketplaces, called Affordable Insurance Exchanges, where consumers can compare health care plans and choose a private health plan that meets their needs. Across the country, a dozen states have committed in recent weeks that they will lead efforts to create these Exchanges.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and each state has the opportunity to tailor its Exchange to meet its citizens’ needs. States have the flexibility to decide whether to build a state Exchange, work with other states, or partner with the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to flexibility in our support of the states’ progress in whatever route they choose, as well as providing planning and implementation funds to help the states to establish the marketplace that suits their residents’ needs.

We have already begun to hear from governors on their states’ commitment to establishing these one-stop-shop marketplaces.

As Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chafee noted in his letter, he signed an executive order in September 2011 to begin work on an Exchange, an effort he says “will provide Rhode Island families and small businesses with access to more affordable, high quality health insurance coverage.” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wrote that Maryland’s state-based Exchange is “well underway and we continue to make significant progress with strong support from the state’s political leadership and broad-based stakeholder community.”

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Women's Living Room Discussion on Health Care

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 4:10 PM
Categories: Economy, Reform, Health

On March 23, 2012, Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seblius, U.S. Senator Al Franken, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum attended a roundtable discussion with women and mothers to discuss how the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, has put Americans back in charge of their health since it was signed into law two years ago.


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Online tax payments by credit card become cheaper and easier for Minnesotans

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Economy, Reform

Beginning July 1st, Minnesota residents paying their taxes online by either credit or debit card will find the process easier, thanks to a change being implemented by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

This is thanks to a new vendor—and new website—being used by the department to handle these payments. The new site, www.payMNtax.com, is run through Value Payment Systems, and features a digital time stamp to guarantee accurate records, an email reminder option to schedule future reminders for upcoming tax payments, and, eventually, an automatic scheduling option to ensure that taxpayers never miss their payments.


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Reversed cuts a victory for Minnesota’s disabled

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Health, Reform, Jobs, Human Rights

In a recent editorial for Access Press, a Minnesota disability news outlet, Steve Larson, senior public policy director for The Arc Minnesota commended state leaders for their work to reverse a number of funding cuts to Minnesota Health and Human Services (HHS).

These reversals delayed cuts to the wages of personal care attendants and disability service providers until the next legislative session and reduced the cut to community services for 2,600 Minnesotans with disabilities by half. ” Disability advocates will need to fight again next session to make these reversals permanent,” says Larson.

The issues of funding to key Health and Human Services sectors were first highlighted by Governor Dayton in his 2012-2013 supplemental budget proposal, and were ultimately addressed with his signing of the HHS omnibus budget bill, a bipartisan effort which restored roughly $18 million in funding lost during the 2011 budget compromise. This new spending was offset by savings to the state from a 1 percent cap on health plan profits negotiated by the Dayton Administration which resulted in the return of $73 million to state and federal taxpayers .


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An Open Letter to all Minnesotans from State Health Care Leaders

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Health, Reform

In a matter of days, there will be a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that will have significant ramifications for health care in the United States and Minnesota. The Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law.  While the decision will likely generate further national debate, it’s important to acknowledge that the decision won’t change some basic facts about health care in Minnesota.

Minnesota has been a pioneer in health care for more than a century and, regardless of the Court’s decision, we will continue to be a national leader.  We have taken a local, commonsense approach to improving the health of our communities, lowering cost through high quality care and providing affordable coverage in our state.  No matter what the Court decides, Minnesotans already know how to collaborate to improve our health care system and move forward together, in the best interest of our state.

While Minnesota’s health care system does better overall compared to the rest of the country, we all still struggle with unsustainable health care costs and lack of access to care. More than 14 percent of our state economy is consumed by health care costs and even with this spending, nearly 490,000 Minnesotans are uninsured. The fear of unaffordable health care holds back entrepreneurs who want to set out on their own and keeps small businesses from new hiring or raising wages.  If we don’t take action to address these concerns, the problems will only grow as Minnesota’s demographics change and our population ages.


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New Online Tools - Online Permit System and Building Code Lookup

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Reform, Technology

The newest paperless initiatives on the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s website include a “Local Code Lookup” feature and an eTRAKit online electrical permit system for homeowners.  

These new tools will make it quicker and easier for homeowners and contractors to access local code information as well as obtain electrical permits online.  With these online tools, people can find the information they need without having to visit or make a call to their local building department.  

The Local Code Lookup – online at http://workplace.doli.state.mn.us/jurisdiction – gives homeowners and contractors online access to one site where they can find local code requirements and code inspectors. The Local Code Lookup will help users find out about which code authority and local jurisdiction for permits they fall under as well as have the ability to search other Minnesota construction codes and licensing disciplines.    

The Local Code Lookup gives users access to the jurisdiction directory, where they can find information regarding a specific city, township or county.  They also can view contact information for their local code official or code inspector.    

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A new era of accountability for Minnesota's schools

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Categories: Education, Reform

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This week, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released information about how schools across the state are doing. Unlike years past, this year, the ratings look a little different.

The ratings are based on a new accountability system – made possible with the approval of Minnesota’s No Child Left Behind (NLCB) waiver - that provides a better, fairer picture of how Minnesota schools are actually doing.

The new system is a vast improvement from the previous system, which measured schools solely based on a single high-stakes test to determine an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) score.  That limited snapshot resulted in a system that unfairly mislabeled and over labeled schools as failing – even schools that were performing at high levels.

Now, with the new Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) system, schools will be evaluated on a number of equally measured criteria. MDE will take into consideration:

  • Proficiency - How are students scoring on state tests?

  • Student growth - How are students making progress toward their goals?

  • Achievement gap reduction – How are schools doing to close the performance gaps among groups of students?

  • Graduation rate – How many students are graduating from high school each year?


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Addressing Higher Education Costs Through Reform

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Categories: Education, Reform, Jobs

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As part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Better Government for a Better Minnesota reform initiative, state government officials are turning their attention to the rising costs of higher education.

Last week, Governor Dayton, Senator Franken, and Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller met with students from around the state to discuss the challenges they face, including higher tuition costs and crippling student debt.  At the same time, state higher education funding per student has fallen by 48% since 2000.  Colleges are trying to educate students with far fewer resources, and many of the costs are now falling to students themselves. These obstacles are limiting Minnesota students’ educational opportunities and are making it more difficult for them to gain the education they need to succeed in the workforce.

After Monday’s meeting in Minneapolis, OHE Director Pogemiller toured the state to get feedback from other colleges.  He traveled to Austin and Winona last week to discuss the rising costs of college for students. He stressed the need for the state to return higher education funding to historical levels to help students manage their costs.  The Office of Higher Education already works to provide tips to current and prospective students on how they can lower the costs of a college education, and the department strives to improve the resources they offer.


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Report Shows Three Straight Months of Job Creation in Minnesota

Posted on March 22, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Categories: Jobs, Economy, Reform

A new report issued by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) showed that Minnesota employers added 6,200 jobs to the state economy in February, marking three consecutive months of job growth in Minnesota. This is an important milestone in Minnesota’s economic recovery. The state has already regained half the jobs it lost during the recession.

Education and Health Services was the leading sector in job creation, adding 5,100 jobs last month. Other areas posting strong job growth include the Government and Leisure and Hospitality sectors.   "The labor market recovery appears to be gaining steam, with three consecutive months of strong job growth," said DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips. "The state has now recovered 81,400 jobs since the recession."


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Going Paperless with DLI ReNew

Posted on March 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Reform, Commerce

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As part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Better Government for a Better Minnesota reform effort, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry unveiled their new online license registration capability.  The online program, called the ReNew system, will make the process of new license registrations and license renewals, faster, simpler, and more streamlined. This system will allow individuals to apply for or renew a license, certificate, or registration online.

“By using the ReNew licensing system, both renewals and initial applications submitted online can be processed a week faster than those submitted by mail,” said Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson. “Instead of mailing paper forms and checks for processing, online users can enter the necessary information, upload the required documents and pay their fee in a matter of minutes.”

Online users will benefit tremendously from this agency reform. They will be able to pay online, eliminating the hassle of possible payment complications like accidental overpayment or underpayment. Also, incomplete applications will be reviewed and processed more quickly, ensuring that applicants will not have the process hindered by a minor mistake. It will also eliminate wasted time and resources caused by delays in delivery and processing.


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