Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday issued an executive order establishing two separate health care task forces, one to work on broad health care reform initiatives and another to develop the state’s health insurance exchange.
Calling the move an effort to improve the state’s entire health care system, Dayton administration officials described the panels as a far-reaching, two-year effort.The task forces will include members from industry, advocacy and academic interests as well as lawmakers from the Capitol.
The continuing push to establish a health care exchange will likely put the adminstration at odds with many Republicans at the Capitol. Some among the GOP majorites, including Senate Health and Human Services Chairman David Hann, have questioned whether Dayton can move forward without legislative support or authority. Hann, at an August news conference with other legislative Republicans, threatened to take the issue to court if need be.
The broader task force, Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said, will look at the state’s health care system as a whole and will be charged with tackling issues such as how to hold down costs and best deliver care. The panel will review how the state will implement the federal health care law and other attempts to improve the state’s health care system.
“We’ve issued this call because we know we can do better,” Jesson said in a conference call with reporters. “We need to not just hope everyone comes together, but we need an organized effort.”
While the broader task force, which Jesson will chair and will include Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, has a more nebulous charge and no set timeline for its work, the advisory panel that will work on the health insurance exchange has a much more concrete goal. Under the federal health law, all states must have an exchange or approved plan in place by Jan. 1, 2013.
The Commerce Department has so far taken the lead in establishing an exchange, and Rothman described the task force as simply the next step in moving forward. ”We need all hands on deck,” Rothman said.
But while lawmakers from both parties will serve on each of the task forces, some Republicans have taken aim at the Dayton administration’s handling of the exchange issue. Some have said they felt shut out of the process, while others have questioned whether the Legislature needs to grant the governor the authority to move forward. Still others, though, have said the state shouldn’t establish an exchange at all.
The Dayton administration in general, and Rothman in particular, has dismissed questions about the authority, however. They contend the budget that Republicans and Dayton agreed to included both the authority and funding necessary to move forward.
Rothman and Jesson both said the administration is in continuing discussions with legislative leaders on health reform and that an announcement about which members of the Legislature will serve on the panels is expected to be made soon. Still, when asked Rothman wouldn’t say that Republican leadership had agreed to cooperate in full with establishing an exchange.
“Since day one we’ve had open discussions with the Legislature in terms of the exchange,” he said. “The bottom line is this: we’re…in a position where we’re working together with them.”
The exchange task force will meet for the first time the afternoon of Nov. 8. The meetings will be open to the public and the press.