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ST. PAUL – One of the more controversial topics being addressed in the Minnesota legislature this year is the future of Governor Dayton’s Health Board. As a member of both health committees in the Minnesota House, State Representative Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne) said he will be in the thick of these conversations.
“While I don’t agree with the health insurance exchange philosophically, it’s the law of the land and we need to address it,” Schomacker said. “Right now, I have serious concerns with the proposal that’s going through the committee process. On a scale of one to ten, with one being the least restrictive and ten being the most, Minnesota’s proposal is about a fifteen.”
Schomacker said legislation needs to be passed by March 21 in order to meet the federal deadline. He noted that half the states are simply joining the federal exchange and giving away their opportunity to improve it at the state level. Schomacker doesn’t feel that adopting a federal exchange is in the best interests of Minnesotans.
But neither is the current bill before the legislature. Schomacker has three specific concerns with Dayton’s health board proposal:
First, the legislation creates a “super board” with no oversight from the legislature or the governor. There would be seven political appointments, none of them allowed to have any current health care expertise. Schomacker said this board would have no accountability in terms of rule making, appeals, open meeting laws, and the overall bidding process under this structure.
The bill also drives up the cost to consumers with its 3.5 percent provider tax. Schomacker believes this tax will inevitably be passed along to the insured through increased premiums. He also notes this unelected board has the ability to share private data.
Finally, the legislation permits the board to arbitrarily decide which insurance companies can participate and which can be left out – even if the company meets all of the board imposed criteria for being admitted.
“Between the appointment process and lack of accountability standards, this becomes an extremely political process,” Schomacker said. “There is also no clear role for counties or local insurance agents in this board. We have people that are providing these services now and those positions become ambiguous. We need clarity for counties, local agents, and consumers.”
“As the process moves forward, I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to find workable solutions,” Schomacker continued. “There’s bipartisan support for getting a bill that makes sense and works for Minnesota. We cannot enact this health board and have it fail immediately. We must have a law that we can live with and better serves the people of Minnesota and their healthcare needs.”
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