Lawmakers address health insurance rebates

State lawmakers took their first crack at health insurance rebates today, with the two main bills calling for more help with rising individual premiums.

Senator Michelle Benson, who sponsored the bill, wants to reform the system to control health costs and future options. But, the Dayton administration is telling them to slow down.
Meanwhile, skyrocketing health insurance premiums brought out the very people struggling to pay for them, including hog farmer Paul Sobocinski.

“On my farm, I have a faring operation,” Sobocinski said. “Right now, I have someone doing my chores at home and I have sows faring pigs. If they're not taken care of right now, I lose those pigs and I lose the income. That's kind of what we're facing with farmers and rural people out there. We need to get that relief out there right now so people know where they are."

Senate Bill 1 spends $300 million on the governor's Emergency Rebate Plan. But, it also calls for insurance plans to let people keep their doctors by not paying out of network costs.

It also opens the Minnesota market to for-profit HMO's to create greater choices in rural Minnesota. As amended today, it would create a re-insurance plan to protect HMO's against financial losses.

"We do have a general agreement to help,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, who sponsored the bill. “But, most Minnesotans expect that if we are going to spend $300 million, we should address some of the underlying problems in this market."

However, DFL senators say it's too much at once.

"There may be many good ideas in the proposed changes here,” said Sen. Ron Latz of District 46. “I just don't see how we can make a decision on these extensive insurance market changes in a very short one-day hearing." 

There's also a set of bills requiring the state to verify each covered person getting a rebate check.

The state's commissioner of Management and Budget, Myron Frans, testified multiple times today that setting up a system to do that would cost about $20 million, take 100 state employees and would delay any rebate checks until next year.