Schoen tapped for health insurance exchange conference committeeFreshman state Rep. Dan Schoen is serving on a panel assigned with hammering out a compromise plan for a new health insurance exchange for Minnesota.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Freshman state Rep. Dan Schoen is serving on a panel assigned with hammering out a compromise plan for a new health insurance exchange for Minnesota.
Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, is one of 10 members of a House-Senate conference committee that is trying to reconcile the two chambers’ competing plans for the online health insurance marketplace.
Legislative leaders gave the conference committee until Thursday to reach an agreement so that final votes could be taken as early as Friday. A bill must be signed into law by the end of the month.
The bills being negotiated had passed on mostly partisan lines last week, with all but one Republican opposing them.
The exchange would allow Minnesota citizens to shop for health insurance online. Business owners also could select plans to offer their employees.
Schoen said lawmakers decided to create a state-run exchange rather than use a federal government-drafted alternative because Minnesota’s version should be cheaper.
Supporters say Minnesotans will save money by comparing health plans before buying one.
Opponents say Minnesotans could end up spending more, particularly in rural areas outside the Twin Cities, and the state could lose businesses and workers to surrounding states on track to adopt the federal exchange.
“A lot of people are projecting their dislike of the (federal) Affordable Care Act on the health insurance exchange,” Schoen said. The exchange is needed because of the federal health care legislation, often called Obamacare.
Schoen said by having its own exchange Minnesotans will save money and have better products to choose from.
It is estimated that 1.3 million Minnesotans will get their insurance from the exchange, which could be in place by this fall.
There are a number of differences between the House and Senate versions, including how the exchange is funded. Representatives want to use a fee of up to 3 percent on health plans to finance it, while senators voted to use state tobacco tax revenue to fund the program.
Schoen said the fee in the House plan may end up being as low as 2 percent or 2.5 percent, while the federal alternative includes a more costly 3.5 percent fee.
Schoen sits on three House committees –- taxes, commerce and health and human services -- that previously heard testimony and voted on that chamber’s health insurance exchange plan.
The conference committee is meeting during the day and into the night this week to work on a compromise bill.