Sparks favors health care bill coming to Senate floor

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

State Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he hasn’t directly worked with the health insurance exchange bill that is moving through the Legislature.

The Senate bill is due for a floor debate and vote on Thursday. Then differences would have to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee and a bill would need to appear before Gov. Mark Dayton by the end of the month. Sparks said he thinks the bill will be a boon for Austin residents, as well as the entire state.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

“Minnesota has always been a leader in health care in the past,” Sparks said. “We want to make sure we get it right.”

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The House approved the bill 72-58 on a nearly party-line vote, after a debate that lasted more than five hours. One Republican and one Democrat crossed party lines: Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, supported the bill, while Rep. Laurie Halvorsen, DFL-Eagan, voted against it.

District 27A Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, voted in favor of creating the exchange.

“Health insurance is something that all families need,” Savick told the Albert Lea Tribune for a story that appeared Tuesday.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, noted the exchange, which is part of the Affordable Health Care Act, is not a health care plan. It will be an online marketplace where private insurance companies can show their rates, so any Minnesotan looking for insurance coverage could compare plans and prices. Potentially this could help small business owners and those who are self-employed, like farmers, compare health insurance coverage.

“For consumers it should help them to have a clear understanding of their options,” Poppe said.

The hope is that if insurance companies were advertising rates all on one website, it could reduce premiums or insurance costs.

One part of that national act stipulated that citizens have access to an online marketplace. States have the opportunity to create their own online exchange website, but if legislation is not passed by March 31, those states’ residents will have access to a federal exchange website.