Exchange Bill Headed to Conference Committee Next Week
[MMA News Now, March 7, 2013] UPDATED - After hours of floor debate in both the House and Senate, a Minnesota-based health insurance exchange will move on to the next phase of its development next week - a conference committee made up of members from both bodies.
The House version (HF 5) proposed by Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL- Inver Grove Heights) passed 72-58 on March 4. The vote was along party lines except one Republican, Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), voted in favor while one DFLer, Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), voted against. The House tacked on an amendment that would exclude abortion services from being offered through the exchange.
The Senate version (SF 1), proposed by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), passed 37-28 after more than 12 hours of debate on March 7. The vote was along party lines except for Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) who broke from her party on the bill.
Now, a conference committee will be formed to figure out a way to blend the bills together. The House version proposes paying for the exchange through a premium withhold of up to 3.5 percent on insurers in the exchange. The Senate version draws financing from the Health Impact Fee, which is the 75 cent per pack tobacco tax. In addition, the Senate version favors an “active purchaser” model, in which the governing body would select only certain, qualified plans, while the House version would allow for more plans to participate in the exchange.
Lawmakers are working to get a final bill passed and signed by the governor before March 31 to meet the deadline posed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The exchange, which is scheduled to begin enrolling participants this October, is expected to serve up to 1.3 million Minnesotans.