Ask your legislators to vote for an Exchange that works for consumers

After months of debate and deliberation, Minnesota is poised to create a new marketplace where more than one million individuals and small businesses will finally be able to find affordable health insurance that meets their needs – the Exchange.

But we are not there yet, because the House and Senate will be voting on the legislation one final time in the next few days. Please call your senator and representative today and ask them to vote in favor of a Minnesota-designed Exchange that can meet the promise of seeking better value and higher quality health insurance for individuals and small businesses. You can find out who represents you by visiting the Legislature’s website.

Late last night, the Exchange conference committee (Senate File 1/House File 5) reached a compromise to create a consumer-focused marketplace that will dramatically improve how many Minnesotans shop for and enroll in health insurance. We are pleased that the Exchange will have the authority to seek higher quality and better value in this new insurance marketplace, is funded by a source that does not compete with other important funding priorities, and has a board that is not hampered by members with a potential financial conflict of interest.

The conference committee report is expected to be voted on by the House later today, and is likely to be on the Senate floor on Monday, March 18. If we fail to pass an Exchange bill before the Legislature departs for the Easter/Passover recess on March 22, Minnesota will join states like Alabama and Texas that have defaulted to a federally run Exchange, where decisions about health insurance for Minnesotans will be made in Washington.

Key features of the conference committee report:

Smart purchaser. Beginning in 2015, the board will have the authority to select which plans are sold in the Exchange based on whether they are in the interests of the individuals and small employers using the Exchange. The knowledge that the board could choose to reject a plan creates an incentive for insurance carriers to compete on value and quality, leading to better choices for consumers.

Financing. The Exchange will be financed by withholding a small percentage of each premium sold through the Exchange, up to 3.5 percent of total premiums. This funding is tied to the phase-out of an existing assessment on health insurers that funds the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA), a high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions that will no longer be needed due to health care reform. Health insurance carriers are expected to absorb the cost of the new premium withhold, since they will experience savings from the phase-out of the MCHA assessment, as well as reduced underwriting and administrative costs. Insurance carriers will also benefit from the $3 billion in revenues this new marketplace is expected to bring to their doorsteps.

Board of directors. The Exchange will have a seven-member board, with each member bringing demonstrated expertise in defined areas. Members are appointed by the Governor, but can be rejected by the House or Senate. There is strong conflict-of-interest language that prohibits those who would financially gain from the Exchange from serving on the board, including individuals who are employed by or represent insurance carriers, insurance brokers, navigator entities and health care providers.

As we near the end of this process, we really want to thank Senator Lourey and Representative Atkins for their leadership in creating a strong Exchange that will bring access to health insurance to more than one million Minnesotans. We also want to recognize the hard work of the other conference committee members: Senators Metzen, Sheran, Goodwin and Hayden; and Representatives Huntley, Liebling, Abeler and Schoen.

We also thank Governor Dayton for his strong support for an Exchange that focuses on the needs of Minnesota consumers; he is expected to sign the legislation into law.

-Christina Wessel

About Christina Wessel

Christina served as the Minnesota Budget Project's deputy director until January 2014.
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