Republicans are balking at a call by Gov. Mark Dayton to reconvene a health care task force in the wake of insurance company proposals for big premium increases next year.

Insurers that sell individual policies are seeking jumps that range from 36 percent to 67 percent for 2017. They would affect about 5 percent of state residents — people who get their coverage outside of employer groups and government programs like Medicare.

Following the release of preliminary rates Thursday, Dayton said he would reconvene a task force on health care finance to look at the individual market, but Republicans panned the group’s track record.

The task force developed a series of proposals that were finalized in January, but couldn’t win support from Republicans who control the state House of Representatives. The proposals included expansion of MinnesotaCare, maintaining a tax collected by health care providers, and sticking with MNsure while reviewing its progress. All three DFL lawmakers on the panel supported the plan, while the two Republican legislators who voted were against it.

“When we had the task force a year ago, they didn’t address any of the things that are driving costs up,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, during a news conference Friday at the Capitol. “They simply said: Let’s increase a billion dollars in taxes to pay for a failing system.”

Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, countered in an interview Friday that the task force could help lawmakers untangle the complex forces behind the rate hikes.

When the federal Affordable Care Act eliminated barriers to coverage for people with preexisting health conditions, for example, it created an opportunity for large employers to drop health benefits for early retirees.

As those consumers have moved into the individual market, they have brought with them higher health risks while alleviating large employers of the cost, Lourey said.

“The health insurance marketplace in the United States is among the markets with the heaviest cost-shifting and cross-subsidization,” Lourey said. “As you part start pulling levers, things get complicated.”

He added: “I can’t think of another group better poised to … take a look and see which of these various levers make the most sense.”

But Daudt said the task force would simply try to “smooth over” the problems.

Republicans said they want to hear Dayton admit that changes with the federal health law aren’t working.

They plan to develop in the next month a series of proposals for fixing the individual market.

“This is a crisis,” Daudt said. “We need to act, and we need to act fast.”

Dayton and lawmakers created the 29-person Health Care Financing Task Force last year for advice on strategies to increase access and improve the quality of health care for Minnesotans.

With $500,000 in funding, the task force was asked to weigh in on controversial topics including whether Minnesota should dump the MNsure exchange and move to the federal government’s online marketplace for health insurance.


Twitter: @chrissnowbeck