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Insurance exchanges are next big hurdle in health care

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The long, heated debate over federal health care reform has landed squarely in Minnesota, as legislators work at break-neck speed to hammer out details of one of the law's central mechanisms.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, each state will have to offer an online marketplace where people can comparison shop for coverage the same way they might buy a plane ticket. But states have tremendous leeway in what these insurance exchanges will look like and how much government control to retain.

"We are like Massachusetts in that we're willing to tax ourselves to help make this thing work, where some other states aren't willing to do that," said former Sen. David Durenberger, a Republican who runs a health care policy institute at the University of St. Thomas.

"Maybe you use less of a heavy hand than in Massachusetts, where they're stuck with huge high-tech giants and big academic health systems so there's a need to create a tougher marketplace," he said. "But we haven't achieved Utah-level quality. We're still a very average state with charges and quality. We're not the place where everyone comes to figure out how to do it."

Originally published: 05/05/2013, Star Tribune