Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to many Americans — and that fixing it must be a priority for both state and federal lawmakers next year.
Dayton, who has been among the strongest advocates for the package of health care reforms, said that while the Affordable Care Act has been a success in insuring more people and providing access to insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions, it also has "some serious blemishes and serious deficiencies."
Speaking to reporters, Dayton said insurance companies have driven up costs in order to participate in the state's MNsure program — and gridlock in Washington, D.C., has made it difficult to pass reforms that could bring those costs back in line.
"The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people," he said.
Dayton's comments followed the announcement earlier in October that individual premiums for people participating in MNsure will increase next year by an average of 50 to 67 percent. About 250,000 people purchase individual coverage on the market, which has seen other rate jumps and the departure of insurers like Blue Cross as the insurers seek to cover their costs. The governor said Minnesota's rate increases have been higher than those of other states because its rates started lower than others.
But he added that the burden felt by people here is shared by others around the country.
"Minnesota is not alone in this," he said.
Speaking later with the Star Tribune, the governor reiterated that he wants the next president and Congress to fix the Affordable Care Act, not scrap it.
"We've got 20 million more people covered. In Minnesota we've got one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country," Dayton said. "So it's been very successful in important ways that I don't think we want to give up on it."
To criticism from Minnesota Republicans that the DFL and Democrats bear all the blame for problems with the federal law, Dayton said it's because Republicans made fixing it impossible. For instance, Dayton said Congress should create a national catastrophic-coverage pool to take pressure off private-market rates; and expand income eligibility for the health care tax credits that enrollees use to help cover their insurance costs.
"But those are things Congress can't even consider because all Republicans want to do is make political hay out of it," Dayton said. The ACA "is trapped where it is. It was a start, but it needs to be improved based on experience, which we've been unable to do."
GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt, however, said that the ACA's failings are the fault of Democrats who have blocked Republicans' attempts at reform. After attending a listening session on health care costs in Red Wing on Wednesday, Daudt said it's clear the situation has become a "crisis." Daudt said he heard from one couple who had seen their $2,300 per month policy — with a $13,000 deductible — dropped after Blue Cross left the market.
The speaker said he is pleased to hear the governor be critical of the Affordable Care Act, but unsure if it points to a quick fix.
"I think that's good, but I need to see the governor's actions, not just his words," he said.
Star Tribune staff writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report.