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MNsure board members ready to shape state’s new health exchange

mark dayton
MinnPost photo by James Nord
The governor, in consultation with commissioners and staff, chose six board members who he said offer “a broad diversity of experience and expertise.”

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday appointed the governing board of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, one of the final steps in getting the new MNsure agency on its feet.

The exchange, authorized in late March by the Legislature, is an autonomous agency that will manage health coverage for roughly 1.3 million Minnesotans under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The governor, in consultation with commissioners and staff, chose the remaining six board members who he said offer “a broad diversity of experience and expertise.”

Dayton had stressed the need for diversity in both geography and experience throughout the appointment process, which attracted more than 100 applicants

The six members join Human Services Department Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who will likely lead the board in its early stages. They are:

  • Thompson Aderinkomi, founder and CEO, RetraceHealth
  • Pete Benner, independent consultant
  • Brian Beutner, CEO, mPay Gateway
  • Kathryn Duevel, OBGYN, Affiliated Community Medical Care (retired)
  • Tom Forsythe, vice president of global communications, General Mills
  • Phil Norrgard, director of human services, Fond du Lac Reservation.

 The board now must choose a chairperson and start establishing the exchange’s governance structure and bylaws, said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, who has so far led the planning process.

He billed the next steps forward as “lots of exciting work” that also includes approving the exchange’s budget, which is sure to attract a lot of attention from opponents of the new marketplace, a linchpin in implementing federal health reform.

MNsure is designed to offer individuals and small businesses in Minnesota a way to shop for health insurance and compare coverage.

“The most important thing we will do with MNsure is finally make health insurance affordable to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans,” said Benner, who has previously worked negotiating insurance for AFSCME Council 6, a state employee union.

Duevel, who worked for the Affiliated Community Medical Centers in Willmar for more than 20 years, acknowledged that the board will be responsible for overseeing health care options for an estimated one-in-five Minnesotans.

That was one of Republicans’ strongest objections to the exchange as it raced through the Legislature this session. It is also a key reason that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which worked extensively to shape the exchange, dropped its support of the project as the session commenced.

Duevel also stressed that rural Minnesotans need access to adequate coverage and said the exchange should be a forum for disseminating information to consumers and small businesses.

Beutner, who ran a health-care software company until April, said the board members would have to work continuously to improve Minnesota’s fledgling exchange, one of the first in the nation.

“It is a gamble. We’re chartering something new,” he said. “There will be hiccups along the way.”

Schowalter said he, Jesson and other executive branch staff recommended the six finalists to Dayton, who ultimately approved them for the six open spots on the board. Dayton interviewed the finalists on April 25.

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