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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sondra Erickson (R)

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News from Representative Erickson 03-08-2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear Friends,

I want to say a special thank you to the staff and residents of Elim Care and Rehab Center in Princeton who came to Saint Paul to testify in favor of HF375, which would make changes to the reimbursement rates the facility receives from the Medical Assistance program.

Unfortunately because of poor time management on the part of the committee chair, the bill was not heard and was delayed until next Tuesday. I am disappointed by the lack of respect shown to the constituents who took time off of work and time out of their busy lives to travel hundreds of miles to come and testify. You can read more about the committee hearing and the specifics of the bill in the writeup in the Princeton Union-Eagle by clicking here.



Health Insurance Exchange

On Monday night, the House debated and ultimately passed a bill that would form a state-run health insurance exchange. While there were some amendments adopted, such as one that would prevent taxpayer funded abortions from being covered by plans sold on the exchange, GOP attempts to add additional oversight, increase choice for consumers and bolster data privacy were rejected by the DFL on mostly party-line votes.

I submitted a column to our local newspapers that I would like to share with you about my concerns with the Health Insurance Exchange:

Democrat Health Exchange brings concerns about choice, cost, and privacy

With surprisingly little fanfare, House Democrats passed the largest overhaul to our state's health system in state history last week, passing HF05, the Health Insurance Exchange bill.

The bill establishes a health insurance exchange, one of the most significant aspects of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as ObamaCare. This exchange is designed to help uninsured Minnesotans find health insurance online – a one stop shop of sorts similar to the travel sites that allow you do compare rates for different airlines and hotels.

While this concept sounds good in theory, in practice there are some serious questions that still remain.

When it comes to changes in health care, one of the most pressing questions always asked is whether or not individuals will be able to keep their doctor. Many Minnesotans have been seeing the same doctor at the same clinic for much of their lives and would not want to be forced to find a new one.

Furthermore, the Health Exchange will be managed by an unelected board of seven bureaucrats who will be in charge of picking winners and losers in the state's health insurance system. They will have the ability to arbitrarily pick which insurance companies will participate in the exchange.

That means the 1.2 million Minnesotans expected to purchase their insurance through the exchange will have fewer insurance choices and diminished options to make the best health care decisions for their family.

Moreover, there are concerns surrounding data privacy and what information would be shared with the government for participants in the exchange.

The answer is that we simply don't know. We don't know yet what private health information would be required under the exchange, and what other government agencies would have access to that information. Given the recent DNR data privacy breach, it's critically important that all data privacy issues are addressed in the final version of the health exchange bill.

Worse yet, the Health Insurance Exchange does nothing to bring down the cost of healthcare. In fact, it does the opposite – the exchange is funded by a 3.5% tax on all plans sold through the exchange. Those costs are likely to be passed on to the customers who don't purchase their plans through the exchange – raising the cost of insurance for all Minnesotans.

This plan is in essence a website that will cost us $54 million dollars annually to run. The state will spend about $300 million on the exchange between now and 2016. It's a boondoggle for taxpayers and even Democrats like Governor Mark Dayton have said "it is a gamble."

I agree – the exchange is an irresponsible gamble with Minnesota's best-in-the-nation healthcare system and should be a concern to all Minnesotans.

Bipartisan Gun Legislation Unveiled

This week more than 70 Republican and Democrat legislators unveiled a bipartisan compromise gun bill. The bill works to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and improves criminal data sharing when it comes to background checks.

This bill is a great example of the common-sense reforms that can be made when two parties are able to come together and find common ground.


Have a great weekend,

Sondra Erickson
State Representative, District 15A