Lower health care costs, improve choices
alth care crisis. Hundreds of thousands of families will see health insurance costs increase by 50 percent or more next year. Thousands more will lose their plan or access to their doctor through no fault of their own. Greater Minnesota is hit especially hard; 45 counties, all outside the seven county Metro Area will have just two insurers offering health plans.
Irresponsible enrollment caps approved by Governor Dayton’s Department of Commerce means many Minnesotans will effectively have just one option. This creates difficult choices for Minnesota families: race through a broken MNsure website, spending hours on the phone seeking help from a dysfunctional call center in Illinois, while trying to enroll before one plan meets its cap, or wait and enroll in an uncapped narrow network plan with a 67 percent premium increase.
An even tougher choice: enroll in a plan that will eat up your family’s budget, or go with lesser or no coverage and pay a steep federal penalty – a minimum fine of $2,000 for a family of four.
How did we get here? How is it that the individual and family insurance market, which has withstood decades of changes in healthcare delivery and utilization, stands at the brink of collapse just a few short years after relative financial health?
This mess is a result of MNsure and federal mandates that destroyed states’ ability to design an insurance market that met the needs of its people. This was particularly devastating to Minnesota, which was a national leader in programs to insure low-income and high risk families. Democrats at the state and federal level rammed through MNsure and Obamacare without a single Republican vote.
Governor Dayton began crafting MNsure over five years ago. IT contracts worth millions of dollars were signed without proper vetting and partisans were put in charge of a massive buildout. Republican concerns were largely ignored – even silenced during legislative debate – when questions were raised about the improbability of vast promises made by Legislative Democrats.
You don’t hear them anymore, but you may remember those promises from 2013: MNsure would be the Travelocity of health insurance, families would save $500 a year, small businesses would save thousands.
It’s important to remember those promises because Democrats’ primary solution to the current crisis is to keep pouring money into MNsure, at least $400,000,000 of taxpayer money to date; raise taxes on healthcare and add more Minnesotans to public health insurance.
House Republicans recognize that we are only one half of one branch of government, but we pushed for major reforms at MNsure and in the wider marketplace anyway. Over the past two years, we led efforts to eliminate MNsure’s special exemptions from oversight, force improvements in technology and customer service performance, reduce the MNsure Tax that drives up the cost of health insurance and eliminate ridiculous bonuses for MNsure executives.
While we succeeded in improving oversight of MNsure, too often Legislative Democrats and Governor Dayton chose the status quo over bold reforms.
Republicans also led on creating more health insurance options for the employees of small business, a group that also faces declining choices and rising costs. That measure received broad bipartisan support in the House, but was stymied by the Dayton Administration.
Just as importantly, we worked in a bipartisan manner to eliminate unfair Medical Assistance liens on families and seniors, and passed telemedicine reform to increase access to quality care in rural areas of our state.
House Republicans will continue putting families first as we seek solutions to this crisis.
The top goal must be to lower costs. Our plan would provide immediate relief by cutting the MNsure Tax by half to save families $22 million over the next three years. Republicans also support using $35 million in leftover funds from a now-defunct health program for direct premium reductions. And passing the tax relief bill unnecessarily vetoed by Governor Dayton would put money back in the pockets of families that could help defray rising healthcare bills.
Second, Minnesotans need more choices. Republicans believe in giving Minnesotans access to tax credits outside of MNsure. If lowering the uninsured rate is the goal of Obamacare’s, why limit people’s choices only to plans sold on a broken website? Families need options and easier access to federal premium tax credits and should be allowed to shop wherever is most convenient for them.
Third, we need long-term stability and competition. While options are constrained by the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, we can employ creative solutions that stabilize the individual market and lower costs either through portable premium assistance for consumers or a reinsurance program similar in purpose to the former Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association.
In order to fix this mess, we need bipartisan solutions for Minnesota’s healthcare system. That means moving past partisan allegiance to the dysfunctional MNsure website, and taking common-sense steps to help residents struggling with rising costs and shrinking choices. Time is short. Families are waiting. Republicans are ready.
Rep. Daudt can be reached
at 651-296-5364 or