Dayton forms health care task force

Bigfork Valley
A patient room at Bigfork Valley hospital, in a file photo from June, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Vogel

Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order Monday that establishes a new state task force on health care reform.

The order requires the state Commerce Department and the 17-member task force to design and develop a health insurance exchange. The exchange, a key part of the federal health care law, will act as an online marketplace where consumers can buy and compare health insurance starting in 2014.

Under the federal health care law, states must take some action to legally authorize the creation of an exchange. The GOP-controlled Legislature rejected authorizing legislation last session.

When asked whether the new order allows the governor to bypass the need for such legislation, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the order allows further steps.

"It does get us to the point where, in addition to the authority we already have to use the federal funds, the authority from the executive branch to proceed to develop and plan an exchange," said Rothman.

The Democratic governor appointed representatives from the administration, business, labor, nonprofit groups and health care organizations. There are four seats designated for the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, says he wishes legislators played a bigger role on the task forces.

"I think this is something that deserves a more integrated approach between the governor's office and the Legislature, not just simply to put a couple of token majority and minority members on a task force that could then legitimize whatever executive actions he wants to take in this regard," said Gottwalt.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will chair the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task force. During a conference call with reporters, Jesson said Minnesota is consistently one of the healthiest states but needs to do better.

"We've got serious gaps and disparities between our healthiest and least healthiest Minnesotans, and we need to close them," Jesson said. "The number of uninsured in Minnesota is increasing, which is unacceptable."

The governor established another task force for improving quality and curbing health care costs.

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