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Letter: Health care exchange does more harm than good

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The Minnesota House has approved legislation that creates a health insurance exchange in Minnesota. I opposed this version of the legislation because the bill does not guarantee better health care, lower insurance premiums, increased coverage or savings in the health care system.

When the bill was first introduced, I raised concerns about the structure and process. I and many of my colleagues offered solutions to these concerns, but few substantive amendments were adopted.

The legislation creates a politically appointed "super agency" that would have no direct oversight from elected officials. This board would exclude itself from rule making, appeals, open meeting laws and the overall bidding process under this structure. Ultimately, the agency can arbitrarily decide which insurance companies can participate and which can be left out -- even if a company meets all of the board imposed criteria for being admitted.

A provider tax of up to 3.5 percent will also be instituted as part of the plan, which will drive up the cost to middle class consumers after the tax is passed along to them through higher premium increases. Exchange analysts do not refute the fact that insurance premiums will go up by 29 percent on average on individual and small-market groups.

We need a law that better serves the people of Minnesota and their healthcare needs. Instead, this proposal raises costs, lowers choices and provides no privacy protections for Minnesotans.

The bill was also passed out of the Minnesota Senate, and will likely go to a conference committee.

Long-term care agenda prioritized at Capitol

Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation to increase funding to nursing homes and senior home care services. This bill would take a significant step toward addressing the chronic underfunding of senior care services by prioritizing an increase to nursing homes and Elderly Waiver providers.

I am pleased to help work on this legislation. Minnesota's nursing homes and assisted living settings support over 112,000 jobs in Minnesota, infuse $6.7 billion into Minnesota's economy each year, and are the largest job provider in the region. An investment in senior care is an investment in a growth sector of Minnesota's economy.

350 percent tax increase proposed for alcoholic beverage tax

Last Wednesday, the Minnesota House Taxes Committee debated legislation that would increase taxes on beer, wine and alcohol. Experts say the nearly 350 percent tax increase would result in an additional four to 10 cents per drink or shot if approved. The current tax on a barrel of beer is $4.60; this legislation would increase it to $16.17. A vote was not taken, which means it could appear in a more comprehensive taxes or liquor proposal later this session.

Unionized daycare

A new bill would establish a "statewide unit for all family child care providers" in Minnesota. Any licensed or unlicensed child care provider who has received a state subsidy in the past year would vote to unionize. This issue also arose in 2011 when Gov. Dayton attempted to use an executive order to conduct a union vote for licensed childcare providers. The Ramsey County Court later ruled that the governor's directive was an "unconstitutional usurpation of the legislature's constitutional right to make or amend our laws." This is why we have this bill in front of us today.

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