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Published March 18, 2013, 01:07 PM

Health insurance marketplace only needs Dayton signature

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators approved 39-28 a health insurance marketplace along party lines this morning, leaving only Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature as the final step.

By: Don Davis, Forum News Service, INFORUM

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators approved 39-28 a health insurance marketplace along party lines this morning, leaving only Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature as the final step.

Dayton is expected to sign the measure that would give Minnesotans a mostly Web-based place to buy health insurance, as required by federal law. If Minnesota does not establish its marketplace, also known as an exchange, the federal government will.

Republicans opposed the marketplace in the Senate, as they did when the House approved it 72-61 early Friday.

Bill author Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said business representatives such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce refused to come up with their own ideas about how to set up an exchange.

“At some point, you have to ask if they want a Minnesota exchange...” Lourey said. “I have yet to see that marketplace that they would support.”

Republicans and chamber leaders disagreed. Chamber representatives said they spent thousands of hours to develop hundreds of suggestions they offered legislators organizing the marketplace bill. The ideas mostly were rejected by Democrats who control the Legislature.

The final marketplace bill is a merger of what passed the House and Senate. One of the major changes was in how to fund the estimated $60 million annual marketplace cost.

Senators had approved taking money from state funds, while the House wanted to withhold up to 3.5 percent of premiums of policies sold in the marketplace. The compromise was for the first two years taking 1.5 percent of premiums, and allowing the marketplace board to borrow from the state any more funding it needs.

Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, complained that the House-Senate conference committee violated rules when it came up with a funding mechanism that was not included in either body’s original bill.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said insurance premiums would rise under a marketplace. Lourey, on the other hand, said costs eventually could fall.

Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said Minnesotans who want to appeal a decision made by the marketplace’s governing board will go through “an unknown, untested process that will be created by a board that has not yet been formed.”

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