Late Thursday night, the Minnesota State Senate passed the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange.
Part of the Affordable Care Act, House File 1, asks each state to set up an internet portal, known as an exchange, to help individuals purchase health insurance.
Small businesses with up to 100 employees or those without coverage can purchase health coverage in the exchange. In states that have decided not to organize their own exchange, the federal government will establish one for them.
In her weekly newsletter, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, a Woodbury Republican, said the plan at this point is to begin enrolling consumers in October, and assistants will help citizens navigate the online options to purchase insurance.
"I have been outspoken about my opposition of the Affordable Care Act from the beginning, and I did not vote for the bill," Kieffer wrote in her newsletter. "This exchange will require millions of dollars to operate and includes a 3.5 percent tax (that you will pay) that is supposed to offset some of the cost. Furthermore, it limits choice in care and has questionable data privacy policies. Some states have flat out refused to create an exchange, but our Governor has been moving forward with a state-run plan since last session."
One-quarter of all Minnesotans are expected to use the exchange. The new exchange itself is expected to cost $332 million from 2011 to 2016.
“By establishing our own exchange, we can do what best for Minnesotans. We have to ensure that those who use the exchange have affordable and accessible healthcare,” Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) said. “Unfortunately, the legislation we passed today doesn’t guarantee better healthcare or lower insurance premiums. Even after passing this bill, which will completely overhaul the healthcare system in our state, we still don’t have answers to the most basic questions Minnesotans are asking: Will it cost me more? Will I keep my doctor? Will it be ready and accountable?”
Thursday’s Senate vote (37-28) concluded 12 hours of floor debate and the consideration of nearly 40 amendments. Differences between the Senate-approved plan and the House proposal will be resolved in conference committee.
Among the different approaches, the Senate proposal funds the exchange through tobacco taxes, which are currently directed to the general fund. The House plan imposes a health premium surcharge.
“The exchange is extremely expensive and puts layers of bureaucracy between Minnesotans and their healthcare,” Housley said. “It limits choices in health insurance coverage and drives up costs with new coverage mandates. Minnesota’s healthcare exchange should be governed in a way that protects and empowers those participating to make their own choices.”