Health Exchange clears Senate

By Sen. Julianne Ortman

Right now Minnesotans have access to among the highest quality and lowest cost of health care in the nation. We rank 4th in the nation in insurance coverage. And even though we are nation-leading, Minnesotans are about to experience a sharp increase in healthcare costs and a decrease in choices — whether or not we plan to use the Health Exchange.
The “Exchange” sets up an internet portal where Minnesotan’s can buy health insurance.
Seems simple enough, but the legislation creates an unnecessarily giant government bureaucracy that will transform the entire insurance industry and will allow the government to control the now-private transactions between buyers, agents, brokers and insurers. Here’s how:
1. The legislation creates an unelected and paid board of seven directors appointed by the Governor to oversee the development and maintenance of the portal (anyone with experience in the insurance industry is prohibited from serving);
2. The Board has complete discretion (with no objective criteria) to decide which insurance providers get to participate, and can restrict any provider from participation for any or no reason at all;
3. The Exchange will cost over $100 million by the 2016-17 Biennium, and will employ over 100 full time employees (these are not the costs of providing care or coverage, just managing the internet portal!)
4. Residents who participate must agree to allow both the state and federal government to access their private medical, insurance and income information (without sufficient protection of our privacy); and
5. Worst of all, the legislation imposes compensation restrictions on free market transactions (those that buy and sell insurance outside the program) by disallowing any insurer or agent from offering any price, or earning any compensation or commission, that might be more competitive than the providers selected to participate in the Exchange.
Economists expect that 1.3 million individuals and small businesses (about one-fourth of all Minnesotans) will purchase insurance through this portal starting in October 2013. And they predict that as a result of the new law, middle class Minnesotans will see their premiums increase by as much as 29 percent.
Insurance providers, health care providers, privacy advocates, and representatives from our local businesses in Carver County have come to the capitol to oppose this legislation until we can adopt some common sense changes and get better answers about how it will work. Unfortunately, the bill has already passed off of the House floor, and is well on its way to becoming law.
So, if it weren’t enough for Governor Dayton to work to raise our sales taxes, business-to-business taxes, and income taxes (even though there is no good reason to increase state spending), he also wants to impose the costs of a state-run healthcare insurance “exchange,” on our families and businesses.
The health insurance exchange legislation is a bad deal for Minnesotans and for the long-term best interests of our financial health.