ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is rushing to build an exchange – a new kind of marketplace that will help about 1.3 million people choose health coverage options.
The exchange system is a centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). If it lives up to advance billing, consumers will go to a web site similar to Expedia or Travelocity where they can get the information they need to choose a plan, learn if they qualify for financial assistance and sign up — all in less than an hour.
Leading this construction project is April Todd-Malmlov, a 35-year-old mother of two who grew up in the small northwestern Minnesota town of Halstad and shows a knack for rattling off facts and figures without notes. For the past two years, she’s been grappling with them as executive director of Minnesota’s health care exchange.
Minnesota is one of 17 states plus the District of Columbia that are building their exchanges themselves instead of letting the federal government do it or partnering with the feds, and her work involves much more than just setting up a web site.
The project faces tight deadlines so that coverage can begin Jan. 1. The Legislature must get its exchange bill through at least 13 committees and passed by both houses by March 23. Open enrollment begins Oct. 1.
“We will be ready by then,” Todd-Malmlov vowed in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am very confident that we will be ready.”
Probably next month, she said, the exchange will roll out the name consumers will know it by — something Todd-Malmlov hopes will resonate as safe and trustworthy. Then the exchange will begin marketing itself through TV, radio, social media and other means to tell Minnesotans what’s coming.
When the site goes live in October, she said, consumers will get easy-to-understand information that will help them make good choices. They’ll also find out how much help they’ll get in paying for coverage.
It should be as easy as buying a plane ticket, she said.