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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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It's official: Health insurance relief/reform is on its way

Friday, January 27, 2017

Dear Neighbor,

The Minnesota House overwhelmingly approved a package of health insurance relief and reform on Thursday and the governor signed it into law.

The package provides a 25-percent premium reduction to Minnesotans who do not qualify for MNsure tax credits on the individual market. It also includes key Republican-led reforms to preserve care for those receiving life-saving treatments and increase competition and consumer choice moving forward.

We’ve been hearing a lot from families that are hurting and getting hit hard not only by premium increases and limited access as well. Hopefully this bill starts the rebuilding process so that as plans are created for 2018, we can increase accessibility and increase options so we can start turning this ship around from the iceberg that is Obamacare.

Republican-led reforms in the final bill include:

  • Allowing for-profit HMOs to operate in Minnesota (like most states) which will increase options for consumers.
  • Modifying stop loss coverage to make it easier for more small businesses to offer affordable insurance to their employees.
  • Providing greater transparency for proposed insurance premium changes by requiring earlier disclosure of proposed rates.
  • Allowing Agricultural Cooperatives to offer group health insurance to their members so farmers and their families can get better access to care and more affordable coverage.
  • Ensuring Minnesota employees can benefit from the recently passed federal 21st Century Cures Act which allows employers to make pre-tax contributions toward employee health insurance costs.
  • Network adequacy reform that will assist in ensuring more options for residents in rural Minnesota.
  • Prohibiting surprise billing to protect consumers from previously undisclosed costs.

This is a nice, bipartisan victory early in the session, but we still need to do much more to drive down costs for the long term. For example, overhauling our tax structure and enacting tort reform would be highly beneficial.

On another subject, serious concern was expressed during a recent meeting regarding implementation of buffer strips. The state’s mapping process has caused confusion, frustration and distrust among citizens. Just since July, 4,000 mapping change requests have been made. There have been over 2,500 map updates, most of which have been very small, according to the DNR. To date, they have removed 120 water features from the buffer map and have added 50.

The initial phase of buffer enforcement is scheduled to begin this November, but it is hard to see how these issues will be resolved by then. We haven’t even mentioned how the discovery in seed mixes of the Palmer amaranth invasive weed could impact things.

Look for more news from the Capitol soon and, as always, I welcome your continued correspondence.