Republican legislative leaders announced a proposal to allow people to open personal health premium accounts that would help them purchase health insurance on the free market.
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, said their plan is aimed at helping people afford health insurance costs outside of the health insurance exchanges that are included under the federal Affordable Care Act, which Hann and Gottwalt oppose. Hann and Gottwalt chair health care committees in the two houses and said their plan has strong support among Republicans who control the Legislature.
Their statement said their proposed plan "would create a mechanism for individuals to pool money from multiple sources in order to afford insurance premiums in the private market." The statement said "individuals and their employers, as well as family members, charitable organizations and other sources," could contribute to the account. There would be no additional cost to the state.
The legislators said employers would be under no obligation to contribute to the fund, which they said would be good for people with part-time jobs who have difficulty affording health coverage.
Both legislators said their plan would help people get coverage. Both oppose health insurance exchanges that are required by the federal health-reform bill, which come with federal subsidies to help lower-income Minnesotans afford coverage. Hann called the plan a "free market solution" for health care.
Gottwalt said the federal plan is based on the theory that "everyone is going to get everything for free," is not sustainable and will eventually throw additional costs onto the state.
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is working on setting up an insurance exchange under the federal reform plan, but it is not clear whether he can do so without approval by the Legislature, which opposes the concept.
Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, announced their plan on Monday that would strengthen the consumer protections and conflict-of-interest protections in the proposed health exchange.
Their plan, and another plan in support of health exchanges, is not likely to go far in the Legislature this session. Hayden said it is important that the two sides have a full debate over the issue, and said he hoped the committee chairs allow that debate to happen.
They appeared with Abby Schanfield, a University of Minnesota student from Minneapolis, who described her struggles with a congenital disease that has triggered several brain surgeries. She said due to the federal bill, she can remain on her parents' insurance until age 26, at which point the exchange will be available to help per find coverage.