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Health reform heard

Published (3/4/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal to allow Minnesotans to purchase health insurance across state lines is part of a bill heard by a House committee.

Known as the Health Insurance Choice Act, HF2901 would implement a series of health care reform measures, including allowing the sale of out-of-state health plans and flexible benefit plans. Another provision would establish the MinnesotaCare modern benefit plan, a voluntary program in which the state would make contributions to enrollee health savings accounts and provide premium discounts.

“The ultimate goal is to get as many people insured as we possibly can,” bill sponsor Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee March 3.

The committee voted 12-5 to send the bill to the House Commerce and Labor Committee without a recommendation. A companion, SF2504, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), awaits action by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee.

Many companies selling commercial health insurance around the country are not selling in Minnesota, said Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota. The hope is that allowing more companies to sell in-state would increase competition and drive down prices, he said, though the policy is not a cure-all for rising health care costs.

While the governor’s proposal includes provisions to create a level playing field between in-state and so-called “foreign” companies, some people feel the legislation does not go far enough.

Dannette Coleman, vice president of public policy and government relations for Medica, said the bill would exempt out-of-state companies from certain statutes governing Minnesota groups. For example, one Minnesota rule limits how far back companies can look to identify pre-existing conditions. Outside companies would need to abide by rules in their home states, many of which have less stringent pre-existing condition policies.

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