He suggested that many of his employees would themselves choose to pay penalties rather than get insurance.
Scott Keefer, an executive with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, acknowledged that he accepted the requirement for individuals to buy insurance “somewhat reluctantly.”
But he said the penalties and the incentives will persuade most people to buy insurance.
“The hope is, behaviorally, it sends a signal that you should have insurance,” he said.
Though that penalty starts out at only $95 per adult or 1 percent of taxable income, it balloons to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of taxable income by 2016. That means someone making $35,000 would pay $875 a year by 2016 if they don't get health insurance.
Individuals, likewise, won’t have to use the exchange, but they would may save a lot of money by using it.
That’s because people making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 per person or $94,200 for a family of four, get so-called “tax credits." There are basically government vouchers to spend on health insurance.
A calculator on MNsure’s website estimates how much individuals or families will need to pay, based on their income, family size and age. A family of four making the state’s median income, or $58,476, would pay an estimated $389 a month, and the government would chip in $680.
The exchange has not come cheap. It has received federal grants worth $110 million and has asked for $55 million more.
April Todd Malmlov, executive director of MNsure, said she’s heard questions in the media about how a website could cost that much money.
“But it’s a very complex system, behind the scenes, that to the consumer should look very simple,” she said.
The exchange starts taking customers Oct. 1. A hotline to help people understand MNsure is expected to go live Sept. 3, though the number hasn’t been released.