House passes Minn. health exchange, Senate to vote Thursday

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Minnesota House Democrats voted 72-58 Monday to pass the Minnesota health exchange, the Pioneer Press reports.

Only one Republican voted in favor and one Democrat voted against.

The bill establishes an online marketplace and call center for Minnesotans to comparison shop for health insurance, a key provision of the federal health care overhaul. More than one million people and small businesses are expected to use the health exchange to purchase coverage.

Gov. Mark Dayton has secured $110 million in federal grants to get the program up and running. By 2016, MPR says the exchange is expected to cost the state $60 million a year to operate.

Opponents say the program is not worth the long-term costs to the state.

"There are three things Minnesotans are about ready to experience. The first one is less choice. The second one is more cost. The third one is no privacy.” Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, tells the Star Tribune.

If the Legislature does not approve a plan for a state-run health exchange by the end of this month, Minnesotans will have to use a federal health exchange.

USA TODAY reports 26 states, including Wisconsin, have defaulted to federal exchanges.

The Senate will vote Thursday on its version of the bill, which differs in how it funds the ongoing operations of the marketplace.

The House bill includes a user tax by withholding a fraction of premiums for insurance plans sold, while the Senate bill would use the existing tobacco excise tax to find the program, according to MPR.

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