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Health care marketplace board members ready to work

Phil Norgaard, director of Fond du Lac Reservation human services, says on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, that a new Minnesota health insurance marketplace will give American Indians a new option. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL — Phil Norgaard uttered words seldom heard in the meeting-filled Minnesota Capitol: “I can’t wait to get to some meetings.”

The human services director at the Fond du Lac Reservation had just been named Tuesday to the MNSure board, which will govern a new health insurance marketplace, and he wanted to get to work.

Gov. Mark Dayton named Norgaard and five others to the board, established to run the mostly online method of buying health insurance mandated by the new Affordable Care Act. The six, plus Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, must have the marketplace running by Oct. 1, with insurance policies set to begin Jan. 1.

Norgaard said he attended a Wisconsin conference last year, and Wisconsinites indicated they were jealous when they heard about MNSure.

“I could see the faces of Wisconsin tribal leaders get longer and longer,” he said, adding that now they knew how Minnesotans feel after the football season.

Norgaard said most American Indians enrolled in tribes have access to health care through tribes, but in some cases MNSure will provide a better option.

Norgaard has directed Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa human services since 1980.

Minnesota is setting up its own insurance marketplace, while neighboring states generally are relying on the federal government to establish theirs. It is one of the three states furthest along in setting up a marketplace.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature approved MNsure earlier this year over Republican objections.

Dayton, a Democrat, said he did not ask his appointees, picked from 112 applicants, about their party affiliation. One of the six appointees, a General Mills official, said he was a Republican.

The board’s early duties will be mostly routine work such as establishing bylaws and guidelines, Commissioner Jim Schowalter of Minnesota Management and Budget said.

Dr. Kathryn Duevel of Willmar said she is eager to get started, taking on “a big responsibility” of making sure people with a “diversity of needs” all have access to good health-care coverage.

Dr. Kathryn Duevel of Willmar

Duevel said that making sure rural Minnesota has health coverage as good as what can be found in the Twin Cities “would be high on my list.” Most people live in small communities, she said.

The same health insurance is not expected to be offered statewide, but she said that all Minnesotans need access to the same levels of care.

Other MNSure board members are:

  • Thompson Aderinkomi, founder of RetraceHealth, who works with health care organization data.
  • Pete Benner, a former union official.
  • Brian Beutner, a consultant who works with start-up companies.
  • Tom Forsythe, General Mills vice president of global communications.
Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.