While most of the attention on health care reform has been on the federal government, federal regulatory agencies and federal courts over the past 2 ½ years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed into law in March 2010, focus has started to turn to the states.  This is because one of the most significant new features to come out of health care reform is the public exchanges, which the states are tasked with creating and maintaining.

The public exchanges are intended to serve as new marketplaces to purchase qualified health plans, so individuals can satisfy the individual mandate, and certain companies can satisfy the shared-responsibility mandate, both of which become effective in 2014.  Individuals and companies alike are beginning to evaluate their current health insurance situation, in light of the new mandates.  However, until the new public exchanges are created, it is difficult to do a complete analysis.

In addition, under a new disclosure mandate, effective March 1, 2013, employers will be required to provide notice to its employees of how the public exchanges will work.  But again, until the exchanges are created, complying with this new disclosure mandate will be challenging, to say the least.

While some states have said they will not create an exchange (thereby forcing the federal government to establish an exchange for such a state’s residents), and others have said they are just now beginning to look into creating an exchange, Governor Dayton has announced the creation of a new state agency in Minnesota, which will be responsible for creating an exchange in Minnesota.  Until now, much of the responsibility fell on the Commerce Department.  But now the new agency will be headed up by Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner James Showalter.

Takeaway:  This is an important development for Minnesota’s health care reform efforts, as it shows a definite intent to create an exchange in Minnesota, and it provides a resource for individuals and employers as they try to learn more about how the public exchange option will work in Minnesota.  In addition, Minnesota residents and employers can check out a new website that is intended to provide the most updated information on Minnesota’s health care reform efforts.  The website can be found at www.mn.gov/health-reform.  This website is intended to provide a state resource similar to the resource that is available to keep abreast of the federal government’s health care reform efforts, at http://www.healthcare.gov/.