Health Insurance Transparency Act Heard in House. As scheduled, the House Education Policy Committee heard HF 2180 (Murphy), the Health Insurance Transparency Act, this morning. The hearing went pretty much as expected. Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), the bill's chief author, had an author's amendment offered to get the bill in the shape she wanted it, and debate then commenced. The Republicans offered a number of amendments, with all but one of them failing. The sole amendment that was accepted came from Representative Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City). That amendment would expand the gift-giving ban in the bill to include lead teacher negotiators as well as school board members.
The bill has a number of problems, foremost its treatment of self-insured districts that would be still be required to go through the sealed-bid process. Prior Lake's Julie Cink--Director of Business Affairs--and Matt Mons--Director of Human Resources--reprised their testimony from Wednesday's Senate hearing and it was again well received by the committee. The requirement that self-insured districts field sealed bids in the same manner as other districts seems redundant and pointless. These districts have made tough decisions and have consulted their employee groups every step of the way. To pull the rug on these districts by requiring them to take part in this process is counterproductive.
This bill is likely to cause a lot of headaches. School districts are not required to take the lowest bid, as the lowest bid can be based on a price/product combination that does not fit the district's needs. Therefore, the only purpose the bill may serve is to flood districts with bids from the Public Employees Insurance Plan (PEIP) that may be show a lower cost, but not be tied to district needs. The result will likely be public relations nightmares for school districts.
The other point that still remains problematic is the $1 million subsidy that the state will provide for PEIP. This will create an unfair advantage for PEIP and simply allow them to undercut private providers. That just doesn't make much sense.
This bill will be moving fast in both houses of the Legislature. The Senate companion, SF 1835 (Sieben), passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday and will likely be heard in the Senate Education Policy Committee next week. HF 2180's next stop will be the House Commerce Committee and it also will likely be heard next week. There will be plenty of opportunity to amend the bill and hopefully make it more palatable, but those changes won't be made without pressure from outside the Capitol. I urge all of you, especially self-insured districts, to make your concerns known.