A bill that would allow health insurance companies to provide plans that don't cover conditions ranging from cancer to mental health issues to prenatal care prompted vigorous objection from DFL lawmakers in a House committee hearing on Tuesday.
The proposal from Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, is a reworked version of a plan Drazkowski proposed during a debate over health care premium relief earlier in the Legislative session. That proposal sparked fierce opposition and was ultimately stripped from the $326 million health care bill approved by Legislature and signed into law.
It's not clear if Drazkowski's second attempt on the plan will make it further. The House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee had been scheduled to vote on forwarding the bill to a second committee. But after listening to testimony and debate on the bill, the committee's chairman, Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska opted to instead hold onto the bill and potentially consider it in the future as an addition to a broader policy package. It does not have a companion bill in the Senate.
Drazkowski said his bill would help solve the problem of rising health-care rates -- and provide a structure for health care companies if the federal government dismantles the Affordable Care Act. Under current federal law, insurance companies' offerings must cover a wide range of conditions. But Drazkowski said he sees that requirement as burdensome and unnecessary. He said single men would be better served if they didn't have to purchase plans that include prenatal coverage or coverage for newborn babies, and that women could save if they didn't have to insure themselves against prostate cancer.
"We hear, again and again, calls to provide options that are more accessible," he said, "rather than the full-size, shiny, glossy, gold-plated Cadillacs we have for coverage and are mandated into state law."
DFLers, however, questioned how people could predict if they'd get cancer, have to go to the emergency room, or suffer from a mental health crisis. They said the government would end up picking up the tab for people who opted for cheaper plans, but ended up needing broader coverage.
"The way I read this, it not only makes health care so much more expensive for everybody else, but it makes people that can't afford it go bankrupt first, maybe die, and then the hospital has to pick up the cost if they don't", said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, DFL-Edina. "It's really blowing up the system and making it far more expensive."
Drazkowski said people would need to "make decisions, instead of having government make decisions for them."
"If somebody gets cancer and doesn't have coverage, what happens to them is, well, they will have to pay," he said.
Representatives for a handful of groups, including the Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Nurses Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, testified in opposition to the bill. One speaker, Twila Brase of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, testified in support.