Lawmakers roll out plan for new health insurance exchange

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Lawmakers unveiled plans for a state health insurance exchange they expect twenty percent of Minnesotans will use to find insurance. The online marketplace is part of the health care overhaul that President Obama shepherded through Washington.

Minnesota legislators from both parties introduced the bill. They estimate 300,000 residents who are currently uninsured will use the exchange to find coverage. Their plan calls for funding the program largely through a 3.5 percent surcharge on the premiums insurance companies charge.

Their bill would set up a seven-member board to oversee the exchange. It calls for letting that board determine which insurance plans will be available on the exchange. That idea already has critics, though. The Minnesota Council of Health Plans tells MPR the state should open the exchange to any plan that meets specified criteria.

Backers of the exchange say it will allow for comparison shopping that will be convenient for consumers and will spark competition that will keep insurance costs low. Small businesses would also find insurance there. But one Republican -- Rep. Greg Davids of Preston -- tells Politics in Minnesota that more buy-in is needed from the business community for the exchange to work.

Senate Republican Leader David Hann is another who's not buying the need for the exchange. Hann tells Forum News Service it's a big mistake.

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