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Brick City Blog: Taking the health care exchange for a test drive

One of the primary elements of the federal health care reform passed in 2010 was the establishment of health care exchanges — marketplaces designed to facilitate the purchase of health insurance for individuals and small businesses.  In real terms, individuals will interface with the exchange through a website.  People who are eligible for subsidies or credits through existing law or provisions of the health care reform bill will have those subsidies or credits built into their profiles and will have those automatically included in their premium calculations.

Under the terms of the health care reform bill, states are supposed to have their exchanges up and running by January 1, 2013 with policies purchases on the exchange effective beginning January 1, 2014.  The state of Minnesota received federal grant money this year to begin planning and development of its exchange.

The first fruits of that grant money are now available for viewing on the Commerce Department’s website.  The state is working with five private partners to design and build the exchange, and those partners have presented exchange prototypes that you can go out, view, and interact with.  There’s no personal data on the website, but it’s interesting to go in and try out different options.

For instance, here’s a shot from the Deloitte Individual Enrollment module, showing some 33 health insurance options for the data I entered:

The idea, obviously, is to try and take a complex subject like health insurance and simplify the process so that it’s easy for everyone to evaluate and purchase the right policy for them and their family.  After looking through the different modules, citizens are encouraged to give their feedback via an online survey.

Whether you supported the health care reform bill or not, it’s important that the pieces of it that are implemented are done well.  Creating our own state exchange, too, keeps Minnesotans out of a federal exchange system and enables us to address health concerns in a state-specific way.  And even if the entire bill were to be found unconstitutional, one could argue that the creation of such an exchange might be worthwhile anyway.  Utah, perhaps the reddest of the “red” states, has been enrolling citizens in health insurance via an exchange since 2009.

This post was originally published on Brick City Blog and written by Sean Olsen. Find Sean on Twitter: @sean_olsen

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