The availability of affordable health insurance on the individual market is critical to many Minnesotans, from our farmers to our day care providers to those living with significant health concerns. Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan take this issue seriously, which is why the recently published commentary “Extending reinsurance would give residents break” (March 15) is so troubling.
Contrary to the claims made by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, the best evidence available to the Minnesota Department of Commerce is that the premium rate impact for consumers under the current reinsurance program and Gov. Walz’s premium discount program would be the same. At the end of the day, Minnesotans will be paying the same amount in premiums whether the state chooses to extend reinsurance or to give Minnesotans a 20 percent subsidy on their premiums. A discount is a discount.
So if the costs net out neutral for Minnesotans, why is Gov. Walz’s plan better? Two reasons.
First, in 2018, Minnesota lost $90.5 million in federal funding due to the reinsurance program. In 2017, the federal government significantly reduced funding for MinnesotaCare, which helps the state provide insurance to lower-income Minnesotans because of the state’s reinsurance program. If we do not choose the reinsurance path, we do not lose that funding. If there was a way to reinstate that lost $90.5 million from the federal government and prevent us from losing future funding, why wouldn’t we?
Second, the governor’s 20 percent premium subsidy is just the first step. The premium subsidy program combined with a state tax credit leads to a solution that is fair and affordable for Minnesotans who buy their own insurance. The governor’s proposal adds a state-based tax credit in 2021 for individuals purchasing insurance through MNsure who do not currently receive tax credits, to limit their costs to 9.9 percent of their income, significantly lowering the costs of health care for Minnesotans. Today, residents in greater Minnesota pay more than metro-area residents for individual insurance. The Walz-Flanagan approach evens out costs for all Minnesotans, regardless of where they live.
I urge our lawmakers to consider the state’s long-term ability to provide high-quality, affordable health care for Minnesotans in the individual market. It just makes good sense.
Steve Kelley is commissioner, Minnesota Department of Commerce.