It was a very eventful week at the capitol for the state health insurance exchange proposal. The bill passed three more legislative committees, bringing the total to nine committees it has now passed in the House and Senate. In nearly every committee, the vote on passage has been along party lines with Republicans refusing to vote for the bill. However, Republicans have voted for several amendments to the bill including some supported by MIIAB.
The positive improvement to the bill regarding agents and brokers has remained in the bill. There has been some additional discussion about agent disclosure requirements. The bill already contains language requiring an agent to disclose, 1) the companies and products within the exchange that they are appointed to write, 2) that they may be compensated by the insurance company and 3) the exchange website contains a complete list of all products offered through the exchange. Some legislators would like agents to make additional disclosures related to public programs and government tax credits (subsidies). While we have been able to deter these amendments, we will have to work with the bill authors to address these concerns this week. Exchange proponents still have concerns about agents enrolling low income persons in Medicaid, in essence acting as navigators.
A major amendment to the exchange bill was adopted in the Senate Tax Committee Friday morning. This amendment addresses the funding of the exchange. Even though Minnesota has received considerable federal funding, the exchange must be self-sufficient by 2015. This requires a long-term funding source. The bill as introduced requires a 3.5% premium withhold from products sold in the exchange. At the urging of the business community, an amendment was offered that would have the exchange funded through the proceeds of our state's tobacco tax. This amendment was supported by several Democrats and was adopted. The House version of the bill still contains the premium withhold.
The bill will need to move through at least three more committees in each house. Then it will be acted upon by the full House and Senate. It will likely be send to a House-Senate conference committee to settle on the final bill language. Then re-passed and sent to the governor. This must occur all within the next six weeks.