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Health exchange bill heads to Dayton after Senate approval

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The Minnesota Senate on Monday approved legislation that would create a new online health insurance marketplace in the state.

The measure passed on a 39 to 28 vote, the Associated Press reported. The House approved it last week.

The next stop for the legislation is the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it.

The Pioneer Press reports that Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the bill is "a foundation upon which to make sure that people have access to the care that they need."

No Republican voted for the legislation in either chamber. Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, called the bill a disgrace, MPR reports.

The health exchange would create an online portal for more than 1 million Minnesotans to shop for health insurance, including 300,000 currently uninsured, starting as early as October. The legislation also creates a new state office and a board to manage the web marketplace.

Insurers must submit the plans and premium rates they'll offer on the newly-approved health exchange by May 17, according to the Star Tribune.

Creation of the health exchange was a key part of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, approved in 2010. Minnesota and at least 16 other states are aiming to create their own exchanges instead of opting to let the federal government manage it.

The legislation has been controversial, but nevertheless sailed through the Legislature as lawmakers worked in advance of a March 31 deadline.

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