Thursday, February 7, 2013

Minnesota Health Exchange Board: Secret Club House?

Children love secret club houses. They love secrecy even when there's no need for secrecy.
Donna Tartt 

When I first read the MarketPlace Health Exchange bills, HF 5 and SF 1, I thought of the above quote.  I even used the concept of it in my public testimony this week stating that the Health Exchange Board could be a "children's secret club house" if some proposed language remains in the bill.

Hopefully, that will not happen.  Since I did my last post there has been some activity. 

House File 5 was heard in the House Civil Law Committee where a number of questions surrounding transparency and privacy arose.  Chairman Lesch felt the bill needed to go to the Data Practices Subcommittee. With the inertia of the Health Exchange bill on a "fast track" the bill was referred to another committee formally, but the Data Practices Subcommittee heard the bill with understanding of the Chief Author that what was recommended would be attached to House File 5. 

A number of legislators are working with each other and have heard from the public on the possible "perpetually closed" MarketPlace Exchange Board.  In questioning by members of the House Data Practices Subcommittee it seems that the Health Exchange staff  "over drafted" the Open Meeting Law section.

In other words, they do not need as much secrecy for the "Club House" as the Exchange staff proposed.  There was an open and good exchange of questions and answers between the staff and subcommittee members.

As it sits now there will be draft language drawn up for members of the House Data Practices Subcommittee to narrow the broad language for the Open Meeting Law section.  The draft language if the Subcommittee members and Chief Author Atkins approve will be amended possibly in a House Finance Committee next week.

It is important though the public still have the opportunity to review the draft language and give feedback.

The MarketPlace Health Exchange Board is a unique and new character added to the Minnesota list of government entities.  It has the potential to help 1.3 million Minnesotans.  It is a $40 million plus agency per year.  The members of the Exchange Board will be making deals with a number of parties in the insurance and health industry in the public interest.  Just these points alone in this paragraph dictate the need for more public scrutiny, transparency, and accountability than what is now currently proposed.

Other than draft language in regards to the Open Meeting Law there will also be language dealing with concerns of data practices such as what kind of data will be shared with other government agencies.

The Data Practices Subcommittee of House Civil Law is made up of an excellent group of legislators who know the importance of privacy, the right to know, accountability, and transparency.  The bill is getting the scrutiny it deserves on these matters. 

The public still needs though to do its oversight and vigilance as the bill continues to become law so that there is no "Secret Club House". 


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