Gov. Mark Dayton urged GOP legislators Wednesday to act quickly on his proposal to give rebates to Minnesotans who buy their insurance on the individual market and are seeing premium increases of 50 percent or more.
“We’re running out of time to effectuate this by providing this relief to people who need it, starting in January, so I challenge, particularly the House Republican caucus, to quit dilly-dallying and get to work,” Dayton said at a news conference and in a letter to Republican legislators.
The 5 percent of Minnesotans who buy their health insurance on the individual market — covering about 250,000 people statewide — are shopping now or already have bought plans that will include steep premium hikes beginning Jan. 1. Quick help would require a special legislative session that only Dayton can call, but he wants agreement from lawmakers before calling them back to St. Paul.
Dayton’s proposal would give a 25 percent rebate to Minnesotans — regardless of income — who buy their insurance on the individual exchange. It would cost the state more than $300 million, which he has proposed to take from an expected surplus.
He was responding to a letter from House Republicans earlier in the week that laid out some smaller scale proposals, including a 20 percent cut in premiums for one month; targeted relief for the neediest to pay for out-of-network costs, deductibles and premiums; and the ability to see current doctors, among other ideas.
Minnesotan individuals who earn less than $47,520 or families of four who make less than $97,200 already are eligible for subsidies that would offset the premium increases.
House Republicans also outlined longer term proposals to end MNsure — the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act — and join the federal health insurance exchange. They also proposed allowing for-profit HMOs to participate in the individual market, among other ideas.
Those proposals came from all parties out of a “constructive meeting” last week, said House GOP spokeswoman Susan Closmore.
The GOP letter also noted the consequences of the health insurance problems they are hearing about from constituents: “People are scaling back businesses, making difficult personal financial choices and considering relocation to other states.”
Minnesotans socked with premium increases are residing in a stressful political purgatory. Although the crisis in the individual market received almost daily attention during the recent election campaign, the path to immediate help is uncertain.
Republicans will take full control of the Legislature in January. A GOP Congress and President-elect Donald Trump have promised to end the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be called Obamacare.
Dayton has asked legislative leaders to meet with his staff Monday.