Legislation giving a state-paid 25-percent discount during 2017 to those hit with big health insurance premium increases is headed to the desk of Governor Mark Dayton, who’s expected to sign it, after the Senate and House passed the compromise bill today. Republican Senator Michelle Benson from Ham Lake choked back tears on the Senate floor saying, “To the farmers and small business owners, to the entrepeneurs on our main streets who are worried, we are listening. We are doing our very best to get you help today.”
Benson added “this is the beginning of many discussions on health reform.” By passing the bill today, some lawmakers reluctantly agreed to allowing for-profit H-M-O’s to sell health insurance policies in Minnesota. They warn premiums could go up or more claims could be denied. But the even more contentious issue of “re-insurance” remains for later in the session. Lawmakers will debate whether the state should pay for care for very ill patients, in an attempt to hold down insurance premiums for everyone else.
Under the bill the legislature passed today, when people receive their monthly invoice for their health insurance premium, there would be a 25 percent discount right on the statement. Benson says she expects insurance companies will be able to implement the discounts by April 30th. Dayton administration officials says the state will issue procedures so people can get rebates for health insurance premiums they’ve already paid in 2017.
Other features of the compromise bill:
Those with serious medical conditions could keep their doctor through their current course of treatment and there are accomodations for those with terminal illness.
Benson says ag co-ops would be able to form insurance pools “so that farmers, many of whom lost their individual policies, will be able to form a group and buy group insurance, perhaps negotiate lower rates.” She adds, “It’s something that has a lot of potential for particularly farmers in Greater Minnesota, most of whom were on Blue Cross Blue Shield, who have very narrow networks under the options they have available.”
Backers say the bill would also make it easier for small employers to self-insure. “Large companies like Target and 3M all self-insure,” says Benson. “It means they can provide products that their employees really like in the health insurance market. We’re letting smaller employers be able to do that as well.”
Benson says conformance with the “21st Century Cures Act” will allow small employers to contribute money to a fund so their employees have a tax advantage to buy in the individual health insurance market.