ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Members of the Minnesota state Senate voted 39-28 Monday to pass a bill that would create a health insurance exchange.
The Minnesota House already has approved the bill. The bill will now go to Gov. Mark Dayton, D, who has vowed to sign the bill and has already set his administration to work establishing an exchange.
The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) calls for federal and state agencies to provide exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets for individuals and small groups, by Oct. 1.
Minnesota officials are hoping their exchange could help as many as 300,000 uninsured state residents get coverage.
Officials are predicting that as many as 1.3 million state residents could be getting coverage through the exchange by 2016.
“We finally get a plan that will hopefully give health insurance access to a lot of Minnesotans at a better price,” said Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.
Minnesota Republicans, along with business groups and insurance companies, said they fear the new system will increase insurance costs. The $60 million a year needed to fund the operations of the exchange will be covered by a premium tax of up to 3.5 percent on plans sold on the exchange, which critics say will likely to put pressure on insurers to raise premium rates across the board.
Some insurance companies also say they don’t have enough time to prepare.
“We know our costs are going to go up,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. No Republicans voted to approve the final bill.
Once Dayton signs the bill later this week, pieces of the exchange will quickly come together.