MNsure to ask feds for $55M for operations

Minnesota's new online health insurance marketplace, MNsure, plans to ask the federal government for a total of $55 million to help fund the operation next year.

The request is larger than the $40 million previously reported in part because the state is seeking a financial buffer against unexpected costs.

The request includes $45 million for operating costs such as compensation for at least 165 full-time employees; information technology; customer service, and marketing.

Executive director April Todd Malmlov said nearly $10 million would be billed to the federal government as an information technology expense for including Medicaid on the state's online insurance exchange.

"Medicaid agencies are able to get a 90 percent federal match on I.T. that are related to exchanges," Malmlov said.

Compensation costs total $15.9 million for:

• MNsure Central Office --66 full time employees (FTE)
• MNsure Call Center -- 33 FTE
• MN.IT staff -- 39 FTE
• Department of Commerce -- 9.5 FTE
• Department of Health -- 17.6 FTE

Minnesota has already received about $110 million in federal money to design and create the state's exchange.

MNsure officials also are developing back-up plans in case the federal government fails to get a key piece of technology running on schedule.

States like Minnesota that are running their own marketplaces will need to access a federal data hub to verify consumers' income and citizenship. The data hub will include income information from the IRS, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security departments.

Malmlov said the state can perform some of the services on the hub, such as a simple calculation for tax credits.

"If that's not working through the hub, that's something that we could have the vendors do as a calculation on this side, which we're using as a contingency," she said.

Last week, the Office of Inspector General reported that the federal data hub testing on privacy protection and security was behind schedule.

Todd-Malmlov said the state will be testing other parts of the data hub in the coming weeks.

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