Senator Schoen: Transparency a Missing Component in the GOP Majority

Transparency needs to be a higher priority at the State Capitol.  Since the beginning of session, the GOP majority in the Senate and the House brought forth over $300 million in spending from the budget reserves on much needed premium relief for Minnesotans who purchased health insurance via MNSURE. This un-vetted expense of taxpayer money, pulled from the budget reserves, accompanied policy changes allowing for-profit health insurance companies to operate in Minnesota. I truly hope this will be beneficial to Minnesotans. However, this is where the problem of the lack of transparency at the legislature is showing its ugly head again.

Normally, a piece of legislation with this much spending and major policy changes affecting Minnesotans receives great scrutiny and substantial public input during the committee process.  Unfortunately, this process was rushed through and we don’t know for sure how these state reforms will affect Minnesotans. I’m truly hopeful they will be positive because we all need them to be.  But much more is to be done.

Whatever comes next should have full vetting before the public so people understand what it means to our families. It’s important to remember the House majority sent legislation to a conference committee that would have allowed insurance companies to not have to cover certain conditions in plans they sold, would have delayed premium relief until 2018 and considered the rebates to consumers as income tax. At the last minute, they included $20 million to operate a program for one year! That number was a guess in which no one could testify to its veracity because there was no fiscal measurement done to assess it.

I raised objection to this lack of vetting and you should expect better of the legislature when we’re talking about spending about one-third of a billion dollars. I called hospital CEO’s around the state regarding the for-profit language and they expressed they were unaware of some of the changes and hoped things would be vetted to make sure we know what they will do for patients and the providers that keep us healthy.

But this worry is something that should have been said to Senate and House committees in front of the public. That would have been transparent. But the way this was done, amending provisions into language that the Senate did not hear and the public did not speak to, represent the lack of transparency. I hope that this will change, because big law changes will be proposed by the majority and partisan politics should not interfere with making sure the public has substantial input.

For questions, Senator Schoen can be reached at (651) 297-8060.

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Dan Schoen represents District 54 in the southeast Twin Cities metro.

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