July 11--Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to Republican legislators Tuesday, July 10, asking them to participate in planning for a health insurance exchange -- a key provision of the federal health care law.
But a key Senate leader on health care issues Tuesday night said he continues to think Republicans should not engage the planning effort until voters get the chance to weigh in on the health law during elections this November. Republicans are promising to repeal the law if they take control of Congress and the White House.
The health exchange is intended to be a new marketplace -- largely online -- where individuals and small groups can begin purchasing health insurance coverage late next year. The federal overhaul of the nation's health care system, which was signed into law in 2010, called for the creation of exchanges in all 50 states; people who buy coverage through exchanges and meet certain income requirements will be eligible for subsidies.
In his letter, Dayton said that Democrats and Republicans share the responsibility for creating a Minnesota exchange, or else the state will be forced to accept a federal model for how the marketplace should function.
"By working together, we can make this project non-partisan and maximize its benefits for all Minnesotans," Dayton wrote, suggesting that action is needed since the U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the constitutionality of the health law.
But Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, responded that
"there is nothing more partisan than this health care law given the way it was passed." No Republicans voted for the measure when it was passed by Congress in 2010.
"Most people don't like this law," Hann said. "As a practical matter, the Legislature will not be in session until January. ... Let's give the public a chance to weigh in on this during the next election."
In a separate letter Tuesday to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dayton said that Minnesotans who purchase coverage through Minnesota's health exchange will see on average a 23 percent reduction in premiums after factoring in the value of premium subsidies and tax credits. In the letter, Dayton pledged to move forward with plans for an exchange in Minnesota.
"Minnesota families will save over $1 billion per year (2016 estimate), with the average family saving $500 per year through tax credits, subsidies and a variety of other factors," the governor wrote.
But Hann challenged Dayton to explain exactly how that will happen. He said that a legislative analysis earlier this year of a Democratic bill to create an exchange estimated the marketplace could cost $300 million to $400 million per year to operate.
"How do you make health insurance more accessible," Hann asked, "when you add $300 million to $400 million in costs?"
Christopher Snowbeck can be reached at 651-228-5479.
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