Minn. legislators offer competing changes to health care

Republicans legislators Monday introduced a bill that they say would be a free-market alternative to a state-based health insurance exchange that is being considered by Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud said the plan would give people access to health premium accounts. Individuals could save money in those accounts to pay for health care costs later. It's a better option than plans being put forward by the governor under the federal health care overhaul, Gottwalt said.

"We're already doing it here in Minnesota. So at the end of the day, we have to ask why are we trying to adopt a federalized approach to health care in Minnesota when, in fact, we have most of the tools in place to do what it professes to accomplish," Gottwalt said.

Democrats say the GOP proposal doesn't ensure anyone will be covered.

Dayton and other Democrats are working to create an exchange that would make it easier for individuals and small businesses to compare and buy health insurance. Under the federal health care law passed by President Barack Obama, if the state does not create an exchange Minnesota residents will rely on a federal system. The state has received federal money for the efforts.

Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, believes a state-based exchange is the better option.

"In Minnesota, it's time for us prepare. It's time for us to move forward," Hayden said. "I think simply saying that we don't need the federal government in our way and we're going to produce legislation in which to try to do that is not the way to go."

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