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In a report Wednesday, the White House highlighted Minnesota's efforts among nine other states as examples of the diverse approaches being taken across the country.

White House highlights state health exchange efforts

Gov. Mark Dayton (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

The White House is holding out Minnesota as one of 10 positive examples of states implementing the health insurance exchange that will play a critical role in the federal health care law once its fully implemented in 2014.

In a report out Wednesday, the White House highlighted Minnesota’s efforts among nine other states as examples of the diverse approaches being taken across the country by the 28 states that have taken steps to implement the exchange.

“As we move forward, we’ll continue to build on our strong partnerships with State leaders nationwide and help ensure all Americans can access high quality, affordable health care and have the security they need and deserve,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle wrote in a White House blog post.

Minnesota, for its part, has received more than $5 million in federal grants to implement, all of it coming during the Dayton administration as it has fully embraced the federal health law. Under former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota was one of just two states not to apply for a planning grant.

While efforts to establish an exchange in Minnesota have continued apace — the task force is scheduled to meet this afternoon — that hasn’t stopped some Republicans from questioning whether there’s been proper legislative oversight of the efforts. Senate Health and Human Services Chairman David Hann has said that Gov. Mark Dayton overstepped his authority in moving forward on an exchange, and had previously threatened to go to court over the issue. Late last week, he said the caucus would not sue, instead leaving the issue for voters to decide.

That the caucus will not be suing doesn’t necessarily mean that Republicans can be expected to acquiesce to the Dayton administration’s embrace of the federal health law. A number of bills were introduced last session to block its implementation and a number of conservative Republicans have remained staunchly opposed to the law. Hann also said he expected to introduce exchange governance legislation this session.

That dynamic, though, lent an interesting twist to the White House report. In a section highlighting Minnesota’s efforts, the White House made use of a quote from House Health and Human Services Reform Chairman Steve Gottwalt, who has been skeptical of efforts to establish an exchange. Last session, Gottwalt saw a bill of his that would have moved forward on an exchange blocked by Republican members in his committee.

In the report today, the White House quotes Gottwalt from a Minnesota Public Radio story as speaking favorably about the exchange: “An Exchange as a model is innocent. Don’t slam it because Obama-care adopted it. Is it possible that we could create an Exchange that would enhance consumer choice and a private marketplace and not be a government-command and control avenue? I think that is possible.”

Gottwalt has generally been more open to an exchange than his counterpart Hann in the Senate. An increasingly diverse group has also come to the table to participate in the exchange effort. Business and industry groups and even Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life have sought to take part in one way or another.

The governor’s task force is set to meet again this afternoon for the second time this week. The panel’s expected to vote on recommendations that will cover adverse election, agents and brokers, long-term governance and financing.

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