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Health Exchange Bill Needs Further Observation

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls)

A major change to Minnesota’s health insurance industry was passed by the Minnesota Legislature this week that will impact every Minnesotan. There are still far too many unknowns regarding the Minnesota Health Exchange bill for us to support it. While the bill has had weeks of testimony in various committees, it is a massive extension of Obamacare that should be held over for further observation.

The Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) is a prescription written by the Obama Administration through the Affordable Care Act passed a few years ago. The law requires states either set up their own exchange (website) for consumers to shop for private or government health coverage through, or defer to the federal exchange already in the works. Most of our neighboring states have decided against a state-based exchange because it costs hundreds of millions to build, tens of millions annually to maintain, and will be subject to regulations handed down from federal agencies. The HIX brings Obamacare to St. Paul. We want to support legislation that would help lower health insurance premiums, provide coverage for more Minnesotans, produce savings throughout the system, and improve the quality of care received by all of us. This bill guarantees none of those.

The initial cost of the HIX to taxpayers is enormous. Without legislative approval, Gov. Dayton began constructing the exchange last year and billing the people of Minnesota. By the time it processes its first customers, it will have cost Minnesotans over $200 million and will cost over $50 million to operate each year after. If our schools wanted that kind of money, they’d be subject to extensive committee hearings and legislative oversight. For the exchange, however, there will be a politically-appointed board that decides many of the details, not elected officials.

Like shopping for soup in the grocery store, there are many choices for consumers when it comes to health insurance. This new model will drastically limit choices for all of us, whether or not you participate in the options through the HIX. The new board of unaccountable bureaucrats will choose which private insurance plans are “allowed” and which ones don’t make the cut.

Finally, this new super agency lacks serious data privacy protections that put your health information at risk. Per the requirements of Obamacare, they will share information outside Minnesota such as private medical, tax, family, employment, income and other data. Information would be reported to federal agencies like the IRS and the Dept. of Homeland Security for 'compliance' purposes.

We sincerely hope our colleagues in the House and Senate revise this bill before it is given final approval and signed by the Governor. As it stands now, the Health Insurance Exchange leaves all of us waiting with many unanswered questions.