Insurance health care exchange legislation clears first committee

By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Insurance health care exchange legislation cleared its first legislative committee with Democratic leaders wanting the complex bill signed by the governor and out the door by the end of March.
A Senate committee on a party-line vote Thursday (Jan. 17) advanced Sen. Tony Lourey’s exchange bill, touching off a flurry of committee hearings in the Senate on the state’s alternative to a federal insurance exchange.
Minnesota is one of 18 states that has conditional approval from the federal government to launch its own insurance exchange.
Because insurance companies must be allowed six months to prepare products to sell in the exchange, a one-stop marketplace where consumers can browse for the best buy, the state exchange must be state law by the end of March. Enrollment is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, with plan coverage starting the first of the year. The exchange is expected to serve more than a million Minnesotans. Lawmakers flatly say they need to bone up on the legislation.
Consumers can browse among “gold” plans, or “silver” plans. Eligibility for a given plan can be confirmed in as little as 30 minutes on the exchange, she explained.
Individuals and people on Medical Assistance will make up the bulk of the 1.3 million Minnesotans the exchange is expected to serve. All Americans, under the federal Affordable Care Act, must have health insurance.
The exchange budget is estimated at $40 million to $50 million a year.

Tim Budig is at [email protected]