Before I get into legislative issues, I want to pass along a video clip where I paid tribute to my late father on the House floor earlier this session. A former state Rep. himself, K.J. McDonald was a great man with a timeless message. Click here to hear legislators speak about my father and to learn about a House floor tradition he started.
Our schedules at the Capitol are heavy on committee meetings at this point in the session as we prepare bills to reach the floor for full votes. Here is an update of some developing issues:
The new majority is moving a bill through the House that would create a new 3.5-percent tax on insurance premiums to fund a brand new government “super agency.” This agency would be subject to limited legislative oversight and have broad authority over our robust health insurance market.
A main concern is that nowhere in the bill does the exchange assure lower health care costs for individuals, lower costs throughout the health care system, an expansion of coverage for Minnesotans, or improved quality of health care — even though it is costing our state hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate.
There are also serious data privacy concerns over the personal data that will be reported to federal agencies like the IRS and the Dept. of Homeland Security for "compliance" purposes. This is not your basic “Travelocity for health insurance.” In fact, it reaches far beyond Obamacare mandates and severely curtails free-market choices in healthcare.
One bill which did reach the House floor this week approved five public employee contracts and two compensation plans, covering approximately 35,000 workers.
The contracts grant 2-percent pay increases and step increases for eligible employees (approximately half). All contracts include a continuation of employers covering 100 percent of employee health insurance premium and 85 percent of dependent coverage (premiums estimated to increase 9 percent in 2013). The latest numbers from the seven contracts approved to date – with 11 more contracts to be approved – show a $249 million increase in the 2014-15 all-funds budget.
A number of legislators expressed concern about the sustainability of rubber-stamp increases like this and the impacts they have on our state budget now and into the future.
Thanks for reading and please be sure to email me if you have a comment or question.