Legislative Update – March 8, 2013

Activity at the legislature continues to ramp up as we approach the first committee deadline for policy bills on March 15. Yesterday, I joined a group of DFL legislators to meet with Governor Mark Dayton to discuss the state budget. At the meeting, Governor Dayton listened to our ideas and concerns about his budget. In particular, we shared our concerns with the Governor’s business-to-business tax proposal.

Earlier today at a meeting with business leaders, Governor Dayton announced that he will be dropping business-to-business taxes from his budget.

I thank Governor Dayton for listening to our concerns and working with us on this issue. Throughout the session, I have sought feedback from you and our small businesses, and held town hall meetings. The budget issue I heard the most concern about was business-to-business taxes. The governor was very open to our concerns and our ideas on how to best balance the budget.

As the legislature crafts its budget, I remain committed to one that funds our priorities like education and property tax relief while keeping Minnesota economically competitive and helping our businesses succeed both over the short-term and the long-term. I look forward to working with Governor Dayton and my legislative colleges on both sides of the aisle on a budget that Minnesota an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Health Insurance Exchange

On Monday, the Minnesota House passed HF 5, legislation establishing a health insurance exchange, on a vote of 72 to 58. The exchange will be an online marketplace where Minnesotans can compare and purchase health insurance coverage.

The health insurance exchange is projected to serve more than 1.2 million Minnesotans through an online marketplace where individuals, families and small businesses will be able to get quality, affordable health coverage that fits their budget. Done correctly, this is a huge, positive step forward for health care reform in Minnesota.

Enrollment in the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange begins October 1, 2013, with plan coverage starting January 1, 2014. If Minnesota does not pass legislation establishing an exchange, the federal government will step in and establish it for the state.

Regardless of your feelings on the Affordable Care Act, when it comes to the health insurance exchange, I think we can all agree that we would rather have it be a Minnesota-made exchange, rather than a one-size-fits-all federal model. Minnesota is already known as a health care leader and by taking charge of our own exchange, we can maintain that reputation.

Minnesota families are projected to save over $1 billion by using the exchange to purchase insurance — with the average family saving $500 and a lower-income family saving approximately $1,800. The exchange is expected to help roughly 300,000 uninsured Minnesotans gain coverage by 2016.

Nearly 200,000 small businesses employees are also expected to access coverage through the exchange. Small businesses currently pay on average 18 percent more than large businesses, an average of $11,000 per year for a family coverage. Small employers are projected to save up to 7.5 percent off of premium costs in the exchange and those eligible for tax credits will save even more. Small business owners would be able to choose the plan for their workers, or let their employees choose the plan that’s right for them.

Through increased competition and tax credits, Minnesota families and small businesses can benefit tremendously from the exchange. Helping our families and small businesses save money on health care costs is good for our economy and good for Minnesota.

The bill funds operation of the exchange by charging health insurance companies up to a 3.5 percent surcharge on premiums of the health plans purchased through the exchange. Exchange staff expects to charge less than 3.5 percent especially in the second and third years of operation.

The Senate is passed their version of the Health Insurance Exchange bill yesterday. The two bills will now go to a conference committee.

Coffee and Conversation

On Saturday, March 9, I will be holding a Coffee and Conversation event from 9-10:30 AM at Thompson’s Bakery and Coffee House in Atwater (500 Pleasant Ave W). Feel free to stop by and talk about the issues!

This Saturday I will also be on KWLM from 11AM-1PM. We’ll be broadcasting from the Willmar Civic Center. Be sure to tune in!

Throughout the legislative session, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns on any legislative issue. Please contact my office at 651-296-6206 or email me at rep.mary.sawatzky@house.mn.  Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

All the best,

Mary Sawatzky

State Representative