More debate requested on health care exchange bill


Controversy over a health care bill about how a new Minnesota Insurance Marketplace will work caused a House committee to lay the bill over for further consideration, even though the bill’s sponsor had anticipated moving the bill forward today.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights), HF5 was presented to the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, and Atkins had expected it to be referred to the House Government Operations Committee.

At issue is how a board of directors would be formed to oversee the new health care exchange and its authority. Testifiers objected to governance powers, conflict of interest requirements, data privacy issues and the collection of up to 3.5 percent of premiums in order to fund the board’s administration of the state health care marketplace.

Another sticking point was whether the board should have the authority to limit the number of insurance plans if they meet the minimum federal requirements.

Extensive testimony used up the committee’s 90-minute hearing time. Because members had little opportunity to debate the bill, the hearing is scheduled to continue Jan. 23.

The bill is on a fast track through the legislative process because a new state health care marketplace needs to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014, according to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Expected to pass through up to seven House committees before moving to the House floor, the legislation has a proposed deadline of March 31, 2013, to become law. That would give insurance providers six months to build their marketplace offerings and get them approved by the board before open enrollment begins Oct. 1, 2013, according to the current timeline.

Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) sponsors SF1, a companion bill, which was approved as amended Jan. 10 by the Senate State and Local Government Committee and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.