State starts work on health care plan

A task force discussed an online health insurance exchange.

State starts work on health care plan

Matt Herbert

 

The debate over health care is set to heat up in Minnesota.

A group tasked with developing an online health insurance marketplace where people can compare health insurance plans made recommendations to Gov. Mark Dayton this week.

But Republican legislators opposed to recent health care reform legislation declined to take part in the process.

The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Task Force was assembled by Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. He appointed 15 members that represent a wide range of interests including consumers, legislators, health care providers and health insurers.

The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, requires states to develop and implement their own health insurance exchanges, or the U.S. Department of Health will implement a one-size-fits all health insurance plan in the state. States have until Jan. 1, 2013 to prove their exchanges will be ready for consumers by 2014.

Rothman said that itâÄôs important for Minnesota to take advantage of the exchange option.

âÄúMinnesota has a unique health system with many components, so itâÄôs important we build an exchange for all Minnesotans to take advantage of,âÄù Rothman said.

Dayton said in a press release that Minnesota can be a leader in providing affordable healthcare.

âÄúThere isnâÄôt a Democrat or Republican health care. There isnâÄôt a Democrat or Republican sickness,âÄù Dayton said. âÄúThereâÄôs not a Democrat or Republican access to affordable health care that is the best quality possible. That is something we all care about.âÄù

Rep. Joe Atkins,  DFL-Inver Grove Heights, is expected to introduce a bill later this week or next week that would be a development of an Internet-based Minnesota health exchange program for the uninsured.

Sen. David Hann, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said there are too many mandates in health insurance that people donâÄôt use or need. Those mandates, he said, affect the cost of health insurance.

âÄúItâÄôs hard for people who just want to have basic coverage but have to pay for mandates they will never use,âÄù Hann said.

He said there needs to be a more robust market and variety of choices for people to choose from at different costs.   

Task force member Rep. Thomas Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said that they tried to get Republican legislators on the task force, but Republicans refused. Congressional Republicans have also strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act.

Rothman said that during the last legislative session, two bills were introduced involving the health insurance exchange issue.

Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, igniting controversy about having a national health insurance system.

Supporters of the bill touted the aspect of allowing children to stay on their parentâÄôs health insurance until age 26, and it eliminated discrimination of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Opponents argued that it would increase government control.

Dave Golden, a spokesman for Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota, said there are about 6,000 students on the UniversityâÄôs health care plan on the Twin Cities campus.

Golden said the University plan is consistent with the Affordable Care Act and anything that is lacking in the University plan will be the same as the Affordable Care Act by 2014.

Golden said he is unsure how it will affect the University plan.