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Minn. Senate approves web-based health insurance marketplace

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The Minnesota Senate spent 12 hours debating a high-profile health insurance bill and ultimately approved it on a largely partisan 37-28 vote late Thursday night, the Star Tribune reports.

The action paved the way for a new online marketplace where more than 1 million state residents, including an estimated 300,000 uninsured, are expected to shop for and purchase health insurance.

"This is largely a website that will allow, for the first time, real apples-to-apples comparisons" in health insurance options, Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick said, the Pioneer Press reported.

The measure has been on a fast track since the Legislature launched the session in January, toiling to meet a federal deadline at the end of March. The House approved a version earlier this week, and a conference committee will have to iron out any differences in the two bills, the Associated Press noted.

The legislation stems from the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which requires that all Americans have health insurance, and it allows states to create their own health insurance exchanges if they choose to do so. But that work has to be done by the end of the month, or the federal government will manage it from Washington.

Senators dealt with more than 150 attempts to amend it, many crafted by Republicans who oppose the exchange. Few amendments passed in the DFL-controlled Senate. Critics say the exchange an expensive, intrusive government overreach into private health decisions. They fret over the power that will be given to the board that manages the exchange.

"I don't believe anybody in this building really understands what's going to happen next year when we do this," Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said, the Pioneer Press reported. "It's a huge gamble."

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