August 12, 2011

Missouri receives $21 million grant to build online health insurance marketplace

Online marketplace will increase competition, drive down insurance costs for families, businesses and individuals

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missouri has received a $21 million grant aimed at making health insurance coverage for individuals and small businesses more accessible and affordable. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the grant award today.

Using the grant, the state Department of Insurance and the Missouri Health Insurance Pool will build an online marketplace for Missouri families and businesses to compare and purchase health insurance specifically tailored to meet their needs. By increasing transparency, comparison and product options, the online marketplace will improve competition and drive down costs.

Under federal law, states can create and operate their own marketplaces; if they do not by 2014, the federal government can intervene and create a marketplace run from Washington.

"We will use our department's expertise and work with a wide group of community stakeholders to invest these funds effectively and efficiently to build a robust online marketplace that meets the needs of Missouri consumers," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance.  "The health insurance needs of Missouri small businesses, families and individuals are too important for us to sit on the sidelines and watch as a one-size-fits-all, Washington-based system is set up in our state."

The concept of a state-run health insurance marketplace has broad, bipartisan support in Missouri. During the 2011 legislative session, the Missouri House of Representatives passed authorizing legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, 157-0, and a Senate committee passed the bill unanimously. The Missouri Senate is now studying the issue through an interim committee.

The organization receiving the grant funding is the Missouri Health Insurance Pool. MHIP is governed by a nine-member board of directors, appointed by the director of the Department of Insurance. The current board represents a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including the insurance director, insurers, consumer advocates and health care providers.