Photo by Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune
Jim Grotz of Edina spoke to the Senate Commerce Committee, which considered a bill providing health insurance premium rebates, authored by Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, right.

Republican state lawmakers are poised to act quickly on premium rebates for some Minnesota health insurance customers, with a full state Senate vote planned Thursday just a week after the proposal was introduced.

Legislative DFLers, backing a separate premium-relief bill proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, urged caution Wednesday, warning that the Republicans' bill would cost more and take longer to enact than their own plan.

Sen. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Wednesday to expect a Senate floor vote the following day. A vote in the House is likely to follow within days, after which lawmakers from both chambers would shape it into a unified proposal to send to Dayton.

Dayton and Republican lawmakers agree they want to provide state help to approximately 123,000 Minnesotans who buy insurance on the individual market but make too much to qualify for federal subsidies. Many in that group have seen their premiums increase by 50 percent or more. 

In a House floor debate, DFL representatives raised concerns about the cost to implement the GOP bill, which the state's budget chief put at $20 million. They also raised questions over issues such as data privacy and the tax implications for recipients of state rebates.

Republicans say their plan is the state’s best bet to tackle a variety of healthcare woes. It would provide three months of 25 percent rebates to many people in the individual market: those who make too much to get federal subsidies, but not more than 800 percent of the federal poverty rate — $95,040 for an individual or $194,000 for a family of four.

For the rest of 2017, the state would issue rebates at three different rates, depending on income. The state would also have to determine who is eligible.

The bill would also set aside money to help extend coverage for people with some serious health conditions who would otherwise be without insurance, and it would allow for-profit health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, to operate in the state. The package would cost $300 million.

The governor’s plan, at $313 million, would provide a 25 percent discount for all of 2017 for anyone on the individual market making too much to qualify for federal subsidies. It would be distributed directly by insurance companies. Rather than issuing checks each month, the plan would lower rates on monthly insurance bills.

 

Erin Golden • 612-673-4790

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