By Don Davis
Phil Norgaard uttered words seldom heard in the meeting-filled Minnesota Capitol: “I can’t wait to get to some meetings.”
The Fond du Lac American Indian Reservation human services director Tuesday had just been named to the MNSure board, which will govern a new health insurance marketplace, and he wanted to get to work.
Dr. Kathryn Duevel of Willmar also was 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.
Gov. Mark Dayton named Norgaard, Duevel and four others to the board, established to run the mostly online method of buying health insurance mandated by new federal law popularly known as Obamacare. The six, plus Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, must have the marketplace running by Oct. 1, with insurance policies set to begin Jan. 1.
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.
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.
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.
Duevel, who retired from her obstetrics and gynecology practice last year, spent more than 20 years at Affiliated Community Medical Centers in Willmar.
“Not only does she bring health care and expertise, but she brings compassion,” Jesson said.
The commissioner told of Duevel’s work as volunteer doctor in South America.
Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, said Duevel was a good choice.
“It’s great for our area to have this representation on the board and it will ensure that MNsure works for all Minnesotans, rural and metro,” Sawatzky said.
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.