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A bipartisan group of legislators unveiled a bill on Wednesday to create a state-administered marketplace where individuals and corporations will be able to purchase health insurance. Minnesota must enact such legislation by the end of March in order to be in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented in 2014.

Legislators introduce bill establishing health insurance exchange

Rep. Joe Atkins

A bipartisan group of legislators unveiled a bill on Wednesday to create a state-administered marketplace where individuals and corporations will be able to purchase health insurance. Minnesota must enact such legislation by the end of March in order to be in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented in 2014.

Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, chair of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, are the chief authors of the bill. Because of the pressing deadline, debate over the health insurance exchange is likely to be at the top of the agenda during the opening weeks of the legislative session.

“The magnitude of this legislation is that 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to be able to purchase their health insurance online,” Atkins said at a press conference unveiling the bill. “It will be an online competitive marketplace for individuals, small businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to buy their health insurance in a competitive setting.”

Under the legislation, the exchange will be overseen by a seven-member board appointed by legislative leaders, the governor, and the human services commissioner. The state’s cost of implementing the exchange is expected to be paid for by tapping up to 3.5 percent of premiums on plans sold through the marketplace.

Three Republican legislators – Sen. Julie Rosen, of Fairmont, and Reps. Jim Abeler, of Anoka, and Greg Davids, of Preston, were also present for the press conference. In addition, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman were on hand to show support.

But the bipartisan showing shouldn’t suggest that there won’t be significant disagreements on the details of the exchange moving forward. “The way the bill is right now I have some major concerns,” Davids said. “We have to have buy-in from the business community. We have to have buy-in from small business to make this work.”

Lourey and Atkins carried similar legislation last year, but it made little progress under Republican majorities. The bill is likely to see significant changes as it makes its way through the relevant legislative committees.

“There will certainly be some stressful and tense conversations along the way,” Lourey said. “But I do believe because almost everyone in the health care industry believes that a Minnesota-based exchange is the right approach … we will gain momentum and people will come with constructive ideas as we roll this forward.”

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