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Pawlenty wants Minnesotans to be able buy health insurance from other states

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes three health-care changes that he says will save the state and consumers money, including allowing Minnesotans to buy health insurance from other states.

No state now allows its residents to buy health insurance from out of state.

Democrats generally oppose the concept, but the Minnesota Legislature's top two health experts are in Washington dealing with federal health care reform today and were not available for immediate comment.

Pawlenty said that Minnesota officials would limit choices to insurance firms from "the top 20 states that are most effective in terms of regulating health insurance policies and have the best health outcomes for their residents."

Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman estimated that the state could save up to $40 million annually if state borders were opened up. Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson said the savings would come both from buying policies from other states and from the three dominant Minnesota insurers lowering their rates to meet the new competition.

The proposal, as well as two others, would require approval of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Pawlenty also proposed a law rewarding Minnesotans who use a state insurance plan for the poor and a free health-care program to go to efficient health clinics. Now, they can pick any clinic. The Republican governor suggests giving rewards to those who use what the state determines are the medically and financially best clinics.

He also wants to change the state-subsidized health-insurance program, known as MinnesotaCare, so adults with incomes 133 percent or more of the federal poverty level would be required to pay for some of the health expenses.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.