Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday warned state lawmakers that he'll reject any bill that would block his plan to open up a state-run health insurance program to all Minnesotans.
The DFL governor's comments came as the Republican-majority Legislature heads into the final days of this year's session with no apparent interest in his MinnesotaCare "buy-in" proposal. The plan, first offered during last year's legislative session, would open the program for low-income residents to anyone in Minnesota, with higher-income people paying the full cost of their health premiums rather than receiving a state subsidy.
Dayton and supportive DFLers say the plan would provide important coverage to Minnesotans facing high premiums or dwindling health-plan options. Republicans counter that the proposal would end up costing the state and health care providers too much money, so they included a provision to limit the expansion of MinnesotaCare in a spending bill that could soon end up on Dayton's desk.
Dayton called a news conference Tuesday to denounce that provision and again urge lawmakers to consider the buy-in plan.
"I will veto any bill that has this prohibition in it," Dayton said. "The result is they are denying good Minnesotans the chance to get more affordable health care and coverage."
Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee and one of the most prominent critics of the MinnesotaCare buy-in proposal, said the proposal would open up a government program to "rich people" who don't need it and would pose a financial hardship for many medical clinics and hospitals.
"Most people understand that the problem isn't that the government isn't big enough in the area of health care," he said. "The problem is that government is too big and has screwed things up in the state of Minnesota."
MinnesotaCare is currently limited to people who meet specific income standards, and the state subsidizes the insurance coverage. Under Dayton's plan, anyone could get a plan through MinnesotaCare, but people above the income threshold would pay the full premium. Health care providers would be paid at a higher rate than they receive for people who get Medicaid benefits but at a lower rate than patients with private health plans.
That's a problem for some Republicans, including Dean, who authored the two provisions in a House finance bill that would ensure MinnesotaCare does not expand its reach. One part of the bill would prohibit the state human resources commissioner from using any state resources to open MinnesotaCare to more people, while a second would prevent the state from taking on an insurance risk or paying health care claims through the program.
Meanwhile, Dayton and other speakers at his news conference challenged Republicans' push to impose work requirements on people who receive Medicaid benefits. The governor said those requirements would "impose barriers" to care for approximately 91,000 Minnesotans.