ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota house voted 77-54 to appropriate $300 million to fund a new state program to reduce health insurance premiums in 2018.

"What the bill does is it sets up a reinsurance pool so that it can take some pressure off the carriers so that we have a market in 2018," bill author representative Greg Davids (R-Preston) says.

Lawmakers say close to 200,000 Minnesotans who purchase health insurance on the state marketplace have dealt with some of the largest rate increases in the nation.

Davids says by creating this "reinsurance" program, consumer premiums could be reduced by as much as 18%.

"Reinsurance markets work and that's why they have them," Davids explains, referring to a similar program that was started in Alaska last year.

The program in Minnesota aims to offset some of the cost insurance providers pay when customers spend more than $50,000 a year on health care.

Through this program the providers would be able to use a portion of the $300 million to pay off that money.

Some Democrats say it's far too much money, which is why they proposed a different idea Monday afternoon. They were hoping to expand MinnesotaCare to middle-class Minnesotans, in hopes of getting them cheaper premiums on this public system.

Representative Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul) argues the reinsurance program is too costly and doesn't come with a guarantee it will work.

"It requires no commitment from insurance companies to reduce premiums for Minnesotans, to provide stronger networks for Minnesotans across the state, or to provide them with more choices and options for coverage," Murphy says.

The Senate will likely take a vote on a similar bill later this week. Lawmakers have a deadline of April 1 to get things in place so that insurance providers can submit their rates for 2018 by the end of May.