On Monday, the House took up the Health Insurance Exchange legislation. I have had grave concerns about this bill from the beginning with three major questions. As it stands now, the answers have turned out to be pretty disturbing.
The first question: Will Minnesotans’ personal healthcare data state private? Never in our state’s history has an entity been created with such significant power and so little accountability to the public. We don’t know what private health data this government exchange will collect from our citizens and interface with state and federal agencies. On top of that, this bill creates a seven-member political panel that will make decisions on your healthcare coverage. None of the board members are elected or accountable to the public through a legislative confirmation process. In other words, this board is accountable to no one and will have unchecked power. Not to mention that it will have the authority to make decisions about what healthcare options are available to you and how much it will cost you without regard for what you believe is right for you and your family.
The second question: Will Minnesotans be able to keep their doctor? The government exchange exerts its control over the entire health insurance market in order to limit your choice of insurance coverage and prevent you from keeping or choosing your own doctor. It offers absolutely no assurance that the self-employed or small business employees will be able to keep their current plan or doctor. If you choose a plan or doctor outside of the government exchange, you will have to pay more because you won’t be able to use the federal tax credit. In essence, this proposal offers no guarantee you get to keep your doctor and imposes a financial hurdle if you do choose to keep your own plan and doctor outside of the government exchange.
The third question: Will Minnesotans have to pay more? The seven-member political board is authorized to levy a 3.5% tax on every plan solid within the exchange to fund its operations. Because the projected revenue for the government exchange is dependent on a high participation rate, the fewer people who use it the government exchange will bear the brunt of higher tax premiums. Adding layers of government bureaucracy will only make healthcare costs more expensive and less affordable for middle class Minnesotans. Independent studies suggest that insurance premiums could go up as much as 29% in the individual and small market groups. In other words, most taxes and costs for consumers.
Privacy invasion, fewer choices, and higher costs – that’s what the government exchange offers Minnesota and that’s why I voted no on final passage.
Yesterday evening, the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy took up the childcare unionization bill. I was disappointed by how dismissive the chair and other DFL committee members were to the concerns of the testifiers who traveled from across the state to send the message that unionizing small business owners is unwanted and unnecessary. Ultimately, after limiting debate and testimony, the bill was passed on a party line vote.
As a former childcare provider myself, I am strongly opposed to this bill. Simply put, this measure would be devastating and have far reaching implications for childcare providers and families. Costs will go up and quality of service for parents and kids will go down. Parents with subsidy-eligible children will have no choice but to use a unionized provider. This is unfair to parents who may not want to use a unionized provider, and unfair to the thousands of childcare providers that do not wish to join a union or pay union dues. The money parents pay for childcare will no longer go toward field trips for kids and instead go to pay union dues. This bill would take approximately $3 million dollars per year from the children our childcare providers care for and put it directly into the pockets of AFSCME. Pre-school aged children should not be caught up in an effort by unions to enrich their leadership and fuel their political activities.
On Wednesday, Adrian Panther, owner of Panther Distillery in Osakis, came to testify on two bills I am authoring. The first, House File 940, would allow Panther to offer a 15 ml tasting of each product. Currently, Panther has one product on the market – White Water Whiskey. The other bill, House File 941, would allow Panther to sell one 750 ml bottle of whiskey to tourists. Both bills were laid over for possible inclusion to the liquor omnibus bill. Very exciting!!!
On Saturday, I will be holding my usual morning coffee meetings with constituents from 10:00-11:30 at the Alexandria Caribou.
As the legislative session moves forward, I will continue to keep you updated. For legislative updates, you can “like” my official Facebook page. Also, if you are on Twitter, you can follow me at @RepMaryFranson.
I am always interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Mary.Franson@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-3201. You can also send mail to my office address: 211 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.