Last Monday the House took up the Health Insurance Exchange bill. This legislation is a product of Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) passed by Congress in 2010 where it asks states to set up an internet portal for the purchase of health insurance. While the word “exchange” may sound like a free-market idea, this particular exchange is a government exchange. I’ve had major concerns about this proposal for awhile. My first concern relates to personal health data privacy. We don’t know what private health data the government exchange will collect from Minnesotans or which state and federal agencies will have access to it. On top of that, this legislation would set up an unelected seven-member political board empowered to make decisions about the healthcare coverage you and your family receives. The lack of accountability and transparency gives me great pause.
I am also troubled by the fact that the government exchange may not let you keep your own plan or your own doctor. There is no assurance in the text of the legislation that the self-employed or small business employees will be able to keep their current plan or doctor. If your current plan or doctor is only available outside the government exchange, you may have to pay more because you won’t be able to use the federal tax credit. Even the DFL author of the bill said in committee that the government exchange will reduce the number of health insurance options from more than 750 to less than 60. Offering fewer choices is not the way to improve healthcare in Minnesota.
To fund its operations, the seven-member unelected political board is authorized to levy up to a 3.5% tax on every plan sold in the government exchange. Projected revenue is dependent upon high participation rates in the government exchange. The fewer people that use it, the higher the tax on premiums will have to be. Instead of lowering costs, the government exchange will make healthcare more expensive and less affordable.
As a small business owner, I’m constantly concerned about the bottom line. As your state representative, I’m always concerned about YOUR bottom line. Because this bill will impose new cost increases on healthcare for your family on top of the fact that it limits choices and doesn’t adequately safeguard personal health information, I voted no on passage of this bill. Unfortunately, it passed the House on a mostly party-line vote. Another version of the government exchange passed the Senate. Now, both chambers of the legislature are waiting to get the bill back from conference committee. While I hope major changes are made in conference committee to improve the bill, I am skeptical it will be enough for me to support it.
FORCED UNIONIZATION OF CHILDCARE PROVIDERS
On Thursday, the House Labor, Workforce, & Regulated Industries Committee will be taking up HF 950, the forced unionization of owners of private in-home daycare centers at 8:15 a.m. in the basement hearing room of the State Office Building. If you are the owner of an in-home daycare in Wright County (or anywhere in Minnesota), I encourage you to come to the Capitol to testify.
Last week I joined with 70 legislators from both sides of the aisle to introduce a pro-Second Amendment bill, HF 1325, which would provide real solutions that improve public safety, punish criminals, and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Minnesotans. This bill is supported by both the NRA and Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.
On Friday, I visited Maple Lake Schools where I talked to high school civics classes and read a book to a group of Kindergartners at the elementary schools.
Later, I visited the Buffalo Wastewater Treatment Facility. Among the many things I learned was that when people flush things like diaper wipes, swifter disposable wipes or other “non-flushable” items down the toilet, it clogs the pumps and costs more taxpayer money to fix the issue. So even if it doesn’t clog your toilet, it costs more of your money to clean it out. Remember to please flush responsibly! J
Next, I met with Kevin Tierney, Managing Attorney for the Wright County (10th Judicial District) Public Defender’s office and his staff. Of the entire judicial branch, I believe public defender offices have the greatest need. Due to serious cuts, each lawyer is required to carry anywhere between 80-120 open cases at a time – compared to a private lawyer who carries 30-40 open cases. Thank you for what you do Mr. Tierney.
My last stop on Friday was at the Dakota Communities group home that's less than a mile from my home. Thank you Matt Sharp, Program Director, Theresa Miller, Site Home Program Coordinator, staff and residents for your warm welcome. I appreciate you sharing with me about the needs of your 600 employees and 400 residents like a cost of living increase since you haven't had one in five years.
Thank you to Kristy Smith of Buffalo, Nicole Smith of Buffalo, Brooke Horejsi of Maple Lake, and Brian Hoffman of Monticello for visiting me in my office in St. Paul last week.
As the legislative session moves forward, I am interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-5063. You can also send me mail to my office address: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family, friends, and neighbors so they can sign up and stay in touch.