Alumna setting the stage for Minnesota’s conversion to health insurance exchange
April Todd-Malmlov’98 is racing against the clock. By Jan. 1, 2013, she and her team at the Minnesota Department of Commerce have to show the federal government that the state is ready to implement a health insurance exchange.
“My staff and I work roughly 80-hour weeks,” she says. “It’s a lot of work.”
Todd-Malmlov is the exchange director, facilitating all the moving parts that make up a massive overhaul of the way individuals and small businesses learn about and purchase health insurance.
Establishing statewide health insurance exchanges by 2014 is a mandate of the federal Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this past June.
The rarity of an industry-wide change such as this makes it an exciting time to be in the healthcare business. “Something this big—in healthcare at least—hasn’t happened since Medicare or Medicaid started,” Todd-Malmlov explains. “It’s a monumental thing.”
Todd-Malmlov compares the insurance exchange as akin to the websites Travelocity or Zappos, a simplified, one-stop shop for consumers to compare and purchase products.
“It’s essentially supposed to accomplish a few things—one is to make health care more simple for people,” she says. Given the complexity of health insurance plans and policies, it can be hard for people to make informed decisions about their health insurance; her work is meant to change that.
“[The exchange] is a place to provide people with information—good information—to make those decisions. And by making all that information public, it encourages competition and price reductions and increase in quality. So it’s really structured to make health care easier and more competitive,” she says.
The exchange will be a game-changer for small businesses with less than 100 employees.
“Today, if you’re an employer, you buy one plan for your employees, and they’re in that one plan,” Todd-Malmlov explains. “In the future, what an exchange will do is allow employers to give the money to the employees, and the employees can each pick the plan they want, so they can all be on a different plan that best fits their needs.”
Heading up a project like this is a role for which she’s well-equipped. Prior to working for the commerce department as the exchange director, she served as the state’s health economist, preceded by a role as vice president of strategic analysis and communications at the healthcare company United Health Group. Even her line of study at Beloit was tailored to her current career path. She started as a major in biology before switching her focus to sociology and a minor in health studies, and also took a solid dose of economics. “I basically structured my course load to prepare me for a job in the health-policy field,” she says.
According to her former advisor, Biology Professor Marion Field Fass, Todd-Malmlov’s stellar career trajectory comes as no surprise.
“April is a perfect example of a student who took the opportunities of a Beloit education and ran with them,” Fass says.
While at Beloit, Todd-Malmlov took the lead in assisting the city of Beloit’s health department with its community needs assessment. The result of that internship was “a final report that was detailed and comprehensive and provided data for the community for a decade,” says Fass. “We knew she was destined to do great things.”
Others have taken notice of her work; the Minneapolis Star Tribune named Twin Cities resident Todd-Malmlov one of 10 “business newsmakers to watch in 2012” this past January.
Though she estimates that Minnesota is “ahead of the game” when it comes to setting up its exchange, there is still much that needs to be accomplished. Items Todd-Malmlov and her team need to check off their to-do list? Setting up customer service functionality and call centers, developing a navigator broker program, working with regulatory agencies, and creating the attendant filing processes that go along with all these tasks.
“I think the biggest challenge is the timeline: it’s very quick,” Todd-Malmlov admits. But it’s a challenge she seems to relish. “Every day is fast-paced, it’s busy, and you know what you’re doing is really going to affect people’s lives in a good way. That’s what I like—knowing that what you’re doing is going to help people.”