Health care exemption advances in Senate

The bill would strike federal provisions requiring citizens to buy insurance.

Michael Zittlow

A bill to nix the health care policies implemented in 2010 by Congress passed in the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The federal health care laws, nicknamed “Obamacare” by opponents, are unconstitutional, said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, who proposed the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.

“[The bill is] making a point that decisions about health care should be made here in Minnesota,” Hann said.

The law prohibits any mandate that Minnesotans must get health insurance. Hann said the U.S. Constitution doesnâÄôt give the federal government the right to compel ownership of anything, including health care.

Federal regulations on MinnesotaâÄôs health care system will have a negative impact on the stateâÄôs already dire financial situation, he said.

“Federal constraints telling us how to spend money are going to drive us bankrupt,” Hann said.

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL- Columbia Heights, said the bill goes along with a trend sheâÄôs seen in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“ItâÄôs another addition for them to prevent low-income people, working people, from getting health care,” Goodwin said.

Also Tuesday, Hann said he would no longer pursue legislation that would repeal early expansion of Medicaid in Minnesota, saying a repeal is too costly and would lead to an even larger deficit than the one already facing the state.

The new federal law also includes a PatientâÄôs Bill of Rights, banning insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and restricting companiesâÄô ability to place annual limits on care.

Part of the federal law allows young adults to stay on their parentsâÄô health care plans until turning 26 âÄìâÄì a provision the Obama administration estimates will cover 1.8 million uninsured people nationwide.

Urban studies student Logan Banke said she plans on staying on her parentsâÄô health insurance after she graduates this spring.

When entering the bleak job market, having a safety net for health care is a welcome option, she said.

When Hann presented the bill to the Finance Committee, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, asked if it would eliminate current requirements for state employees to sign up for Medicare.

While Hann said Medicare might have to be evaluated, he emphasized that his bill is focused on sending a message to the federal government that Minnesota will not accept such regulations on health care.

Compelling people to buy health insurance can be compared to forcing them to buy a certain kind of car, Hann said.

HannâÄôs bill comes after a Florida Supreme Court judge deemed the federal law unconstitutional.

The full Senate will vote on the bill next. A companion bill is in the House of Representatives and was referred to the Government Operations and Elections Committee on Tuesday.