Health exchange bill passes first Senate committee

A bill to create a key part of the federal health care law in Minnesota sailed through its first committee Wednesday on a party line vote.

The state Senate Local Government committee passed a bill to create an insurance exchange. It's expected that one in five Minnesotans will use the online gateway to comparison shop for health care policies and enroll in Medicaid beginning in October. Two similar exchange bills failed to pass in previous sessions when Republicans were in control.

Burnsville Republican, state Sen. Dan Hall called for delay.

"It takes some time to digest it. I think it takes time to look at it," Hall said. "I see the stakeholders that are really in conflict with it. And I wonder if we just need to just wait on this thing, table it."

The bill must pass 13 more committees. State and federal deadlines require Gov. Mark Dayton to sign an exchange bill no later than March 31.

If the exchange is approved and implemented, a seven-member board would run the marketplace and each be paid $55 a day plus expenses.

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Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, chairs the Local Government committee and offered an amendment setting pay at $30,000 a year. The lawmaker worries few will want to do the amount of work required, unless the pay is higher.

"I want us to be able to attract a wide variety of people, not just people who are independently wealthy and can take time off," Pappas said.

Another change in the bill would require all board members to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

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