Minn. health exchange passes first committee

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The Minnesota health exchange cleared one of many hurdles as it moved through a Senate committee Wednesday, the Pioneer Press reports.

As part of the national health care overhaul, the online market place where consumers can purchase health insurance coverage should be operational in October. But, if the bill is not approved by the end of March, the federal government could impose its own model in Minnesota.

The legislation creates a seven-person board of directors to oversee the exchange. Board members cannot have been paid by a health insurance company or health care provider within a year before serving.

Insurance company representatives say that standard is too tight, the newspaper says. They argue industry officials with such conflicts serve on boards of other state-related organizations on health care.

Consumer advocates support the stipulation and say it avoids a conflict of interest and works in the public's interest, rather than special interests.

MPR reports each board member would be paid $55 a day plus expenses.

The committee voted 7-5 to approve the bill. Votes are expected in several more committees in the Senate and House.

Gov. Mark Dayton has secured $71 million in federal grant money to get the exchange up and running. According to MinnPost, early cost estimates for the exchange are $48 million in 2014 and up to $62 million by 2016.

The state's share of the exchange funding would come from a withholding of up to 3.5 percent on insurance premiums.

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