The Affordable Care Act will expand health care to 300,000 Minnesotans – most of whom will find coverage through the state’s new “Health Benefits Exchange.” Yesterday, the state’s “Exchange Task Force” met to adopt recommendations on several key issues related to the Exchange, including who should sit on the Exchange governing board.
TakeAction Minnesota has called for robust participation from consumers on the Exchange Board, and a strong “conflict of interest” standard that would bar the health insurance industry from serving on the Board. Robust consumer participation is critical to ensure that the Exchange understands and responds to the diverse health care needs of Minnesotans. Strong conflict of interest standards are needed to prevent those who will profit from the Exchange – particularly insurers from brokers – from gaining excessive influence. TakeAction Minnesota has joined over a dozen other organizations in calling for these consumer protection provisions, and staff and leaders have testified at numerous Task Force meetings. Minnesota cannot afford to allow the “fox to guard the hen house” on the state’s Health Exchange, as a new TakeAction video illustrates.
The final governance recommendations passed at yesterday’s meeting are a mixed bag for Minnesota consumers. The Task Force recommended that consumers and small businesses together make up the majority of the Exchange Board membership, a strong provision supported by TakeAction Minnesota and other partners. At the same time, the Task Force passed a weak “conflict of interest” standard. The final recommendation opens the door for a “small minority” of individuals with “potential conflicts of interest” to sit on the Exchange board. As TakeAction Minnesota leader Ann-Marie Metzger testified yesterday, this weak standard risks “profits going before people” within the state Exchange.
The good news: Governor Dayton and other key policymakers still have the opportunity to create a stronger governance standard as further Exchange details are hammered out in the coming weeks. TakeAction and our partners will continue to fight for a Health Benefits Exchange that expands coverage, reduces health inequities, and realizes the full potential of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota.
Sarah Greenfield is TakeAction Minnesota’s Health Care Program Manager.