Now that President Barack Obama has secured a second term, the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010 will live on. Part of the law’s wide-range efforts include a mandate for a state-run health insurance exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to compare and shop for affordable health plans. Recently the Obama administration pushed the deadline for exchange proposal outlines to mid-December — back from Nov. 16 — in part due to the hopeful procrastination of many Republican-led state governments.
Many states governed by Republicans have so far indicated they will default to a federal exchange system, including Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. But Minnesota has already received $71 million in federal grants to further the development and implementation of its health insurance exchange. One of the aims of the exchange is to help identify individuals who are eligible for tax credits or other government health programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
An intuitive and efficient state-run exchange in Minnesota could impact the number of people who can get access to affordable, quality health care, and it may reduce some of the striking health disparities that exist in our state. While Minnesotans have a greater number of people insured than the national average, the poverty rate for minorities in Minnesota is higher than average and is increasing, according to Census data. More shockingly, a study from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and Wilder Research points to a 6.6 year difference in life expectancy for children born in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the Twin Cities compared to those born in low-income neighborhoods. We hope and urge our Democratic and Republican lawmakers to continue to work together in developing an exchange of which all Minnesotans can benefit.