Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange bill announced


The future framework for how individuals and Minnesota business owners, including 300,000 of today’s uninsured, could purchase health insurance coverage through an online competitive marketplace was unveiled by a bipartisan group of legislators.

The so-called “Minnesota Insurance Marketplace Act” is expected to be introduced in the House Jan. 10. It will be sponsored by Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights). Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) will be the Senate sponsor.

Holding his electronic tablet, Atkins said Minnesotans could be able to purchase health insurance after they see multiple policies in an “apples to apples” comparison over the Internet beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Public Internet access and human support staff are part of the planning, he added.

However, the state needs to pass the necessary legislation establishing its own health insurance exchange by March 31 in order to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. Without it, Minnesota faces an imposed federally run health exchange.

The proposed bill is scheduled to receive its first hearing Jan. 22 in the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, said Atkins, who chairs the committee. The bill would likely pass through several House committees before landing in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth).

“This is a key moment in my 20 years at the Legislature. I think this is the most important year that I will have been here,” Huntley said. “I personally believe that a lot of things in the Affordable Care Act came out of the Minnesota Legislature … such things as chronic disease management, medical homes or health care homes … so this is, I believe, the most important moment in health care history of the United States since 1965,” he added, referring to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.

Minnesota stands to gain more than $1 billion in health care savings as a result of the new online competitive purchasing method, an average of $490 for each Minnesota family, according to Atkins.

Some Republicans support the concept of a state health care exchange rather than defaulting to a federal program, even though many oppose the overall Affordable Care Act.

“I was hoping it might change, but it did not. As a pragmatist, I want to make it the best it can be,” said Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka).

Likewise, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) said he believes the state should have the right to build the program and therefore, Republicans need to “be in the game,” but he still has major concerns which he looks forward to discussing in the forthcoming committee hearings.