Republicans present insurance exchange legislation

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Republican leaders look to the private sector for answers in their health insurance exchange legislation presented Monday, March 5.

“We have a bill. We have an approach. We have a plan,” said Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, at a Capitol press conference.

The federal Affordable Care Act — often “ObamaCare” by Republican detractors — mandates all states form health insurance exchanges, marketplaces where individuals and businesses can shop for insurance products.

House Health and Human Services Reform Committee Chairman Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, views the Obama Administration as becoming increasingly flexible in allowing states to craft their health insurance exchanges.

This is something the state is entirely capable of doing, Gottwalt said, without the need for “the ObamaCare gun to our head.”

The Republican leaders, who view their legislation as first of its kind , look to accomplishing a number of things in their legislation.

The bill establishes individual trust accounts, accounts into which employers, former employers, family members, charitable organizations or other benefactors, can contribute money to be use to pay for a person’s health care.

These would include tax-preferred contributions from employers and non-tax-preferred contributions from individuals.

“You don’t see this happen,” said Gottwalt of such trusts currently forming.

The Republican legislation also calls for the creation of a marketplace web site task force to design and put online a private sector health insurance exchange site by July 1, 2013, providing standardize comparative information on health insurance products.

Federal law requires states to have such exchanges by 2014.

The Republican leaders indicated that they had not yet approached Obama Administration officials with their health insurance exchange proposal.

But Hann expressed hope that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would support this piece of the Republican health care agenda.

But Democratic health care leaders also have health insurance exchange proposals.

Two Democrats serving on the House health and human services committee, representatives Erin Murphy of St. Paul and Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis, proposed a so-called “no-wrong door” exchange that would be governed by a board of 19-members including members representing the interests of consumers served by the exchange.

Murphy and Hayden appeared at a Capitol press conference along with supporters from Take Action Minnesota, a statewide organization focusing on “community power.”

The Democrats said for a full debate of the health insurance exchange issue.

Hayden criticized Hann, who spoke of an informational hearing on Democratic insurance exchange proposal, for not taking a more expansive approach.

Further, Hayden took exception to Gottwalt’s remarks about an “ObamaCare gun to our head.”

“Let’s tone this down,” Hayden said of such perceive inflammatory rhetoric.

There’s too much real gun violence, he said.

The way forward is the way to compromise, said Hayden.

Appearing at the Democrats’ press conference was Abby Schanfield, a student at the University of Minnesota born with a congenital, chronic disease called toxoplasmosis, a condition that required a shunt be implanted in her brain when she was 10 months old to drain away fluid.

She has had five more surgeries since then.

Schanfield recently lost vision in her left eye as a result of the condition.

She applauded the passage of the Affordable Care Act, citing a provisions which allows her to stay on her parent’s insurance plan until age 26 as vital to her.

And the Affordable Care Act lends certainty to her that an insurer cannot deny her coverage because of her preexisting condition.

She looks to the insurance exchange to find affordable coverage in the future.

“In doing so, I will be able to maintain my condition so it doesn’t spiral out of control,” she said.