Minnesota has almost completed the process of health insurance reforms.
"This is the most significant, positive health care reform in Minnesota in the last 50 years," said bill author Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights. "This is a clear compromise between the House and Senate positions on the exchange."
AdvertisementRepresentatives approved the bill and expected the Governor Mark Dayton to sign the proposal. Minnesotans could use the online exchange to buy health insurance.
"Until I see the governor's pen flying across the page, I'm not done," said Senate author Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick. Lawmakers were to meet a March 22nd deadline otherwise the Federal government would set up the exchange.
"We've got a lot of unique tools in Minnesota, and a federal one-size-fits-all exchange would not be able to leverage all of those assets we've worked so hard collectively to build together," Lourey said of the push to set up a state exchange.
The board would set the rules which the insurance companies would need to implement.
"While it will take a year to implement, the state will eventually be able to negotiate with insurers for the best plans, those that are higher quality and more affordable," said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
The state will fund the program, expected to cost roughly $60 million per year, by withholding 1.5 percent of insurance premiums in the first year and 3.5 percent after that. Loans could be taken from the state.
The marketplace funding would take place from the tobacco tax in Minnesota according to the Senate's original proposal.
The Senate's original proposal would have funded the marketplace with money from the tobacco tax in Minnesota.
Financing was a major piece of discussion, Lourey said, but in the end he believes the system is fair. "I think we have a bill that can work for industry and for people," he said.
Millions of Minnesotans will buy health insurance, plus thousands who are not insured. For those with no internet access people could visit in-person sites to buy health cover.
"It increases the size, the scope and the power of government," said Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria. "This is going to decimate the health care that we know and love in this great state."
The bill started with more bipartisan support but now mainly is backed by Democrats. Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, called the exchange "extreme."
"It's not going to get any support outside the DFL caucus," he said.
Lourey understood why Republicans might not want to back the bill; he felt there was enough room for bipartisan work with regard to health care reforms to continue. "At the end of the day it's pretty hard (for them) to embrace the cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act," he said.
Danielle Killey, Forum News Service, March 2013
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)