Abortion restrictions cut from health exchange bill

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Joe Atkins and Tony Lourey
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, left, and Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick were part of the health insurance exchange bill conference committee.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

Abortion restrictions have been cut from a final version of the health insurance exchange bill that will impact how more than a million Minnesotans obtain health coverage, starting in October.

The House-Senate conference committee working on the bill Wednesday also settled on a way to fund the website that will allow consumers to compare private plans on the open market: There will be a 1.5 percent user fee on premiums for plans sold on the exchangein 2014 and up to 3.5 percent in 2015.

The Senate had wanted to use an existing tobacco tax to fund the program.

The panel also decided to allow all plans that meet state and federal requirements to be sold on the exchange. The bill's chief Senate sponsor, DFLer Tony Lourey, of Kerrick, had wanted the exchange's oversight board to have the final say on which plans were sold on the exchange right away. But under the committee changes, the board won't have that power until 2015.

The original House version would have restricted abortion coverage for all plans sold on the online marketplace. With that provision gone, the House's chief author, Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, didn't want to predict how House members would react to the change.

"I honestly don't know. We had a House position; it was rejected quite resoundingly by the members of the conference committee and we'll see what happens when we get it to the House floor," he said.

The Senate's chief author, Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the Senate had to give "quite a bit" on how to fund the overall program, but in the end he called it a good bill.

"I think at the end of the day we met the broad goals that we set out and I feel confident," he said. "I think we can move this in the Senate."

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