MN to ask for more health exchange funds

The Dayton administration will seek between $60 million and $80 million more in federal grants to fund a cornerstone of the federal health care overhaul — a state insurance exchange.

The exchanges will allow consumers and small groups to comparison shop for health insurance in 2014.

Administration officials disclosed the new request during a testy legislative hearing about a previous federal exchange grant of $42 million. Some lawmakers accused the Dayton administration of moving too fast in developing an exchange without legislative input.

Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chair Mary Liz Holberg pressed administration officials to say what would happen if lawmakers and the governor can't reach agreement on exchange policies.

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"I have not heard you say one thing that tells me as a legislator that if we don't like this, if we don't like the direction this is going that we have any ability whatsoever to stop it," Holberg said.

Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said he did not know. He said it's still to be determined whether the governor has the authority to make those decisions unilaterally, or whether he would choose to do so even if he can.

Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the GOP-controlled Legislature has had many chances to take part and has refused.

"It was an absolute abject failure of the Legislature to engage in these important conversations about how we move Minnesota forward," Lourey said.

The Dayton administration said major policy decisions are on hold until lawmakers can weigh in during the next legislative session.