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Minnesota Senate passes health insurance exchange bill after 12-hour debate

More than 150 amendments were debated before the vote, which was largely along party lines. It now goes to a conference committee to reconcile differences with the House bill.

After 12 hours of debate and 150 amendments to consider, the Minnesota Senate passed a health insurance exchange bill Thursday night.

The legislation passed nearly on a party line vote, with one DFLer, state Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, joining the Republicans voting against it. Now, a conference committee must reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions.

Bonoff said she supports the exchange, but that elements of the bill didn’t fit her expectations, so she had to, in good conscience, vote against it at this time.

The bills would create a marketplace for more people to buy health insurance, with up to 1.3 million Minnesotans using it in the first few years.

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The state will spend about $50 million a year operating the exchange. If the state doesn’t set up its own exchange by this month, the federal government could set up its own exchange in the state.

A key difference between the Senate version and the House bill, passed Monday, is a clause in the House which wouldn’t allow the cost of abortions to be covered by the insurance sold on the exchange.

And the the Senate bill would effectively use money from the general fund to cover costs of the exchange, while the House version would take up to 3.5 percent of premiums sold on the exchange to cover costs.