On Tuesday, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he was unsure whether the MNsure health insurance rates should be released before the election, the governor asked his commerce commissioner to attempt an earlier release.
"Making the rate information public before open enrollment begins would provide families and businesses additional time and information to help them make informed decision," Dayton said in a letter to MNsure's legislative committee.
The timing of the rate release has long been a political football.
Republicans have hammered the administration to release the 2015 health insurance rates before the November election, saying they believe consumer costs will like rise. Waiting until Nov. 15, when open enrollment begins and several weeks after voters will decide whether to re-elect Dayton and legislative DFLers, amounts to a political "cover up," they've said.
On Monday, Dayton appeared to resist calls for an earlier release.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," the governor said in answering reporter questions about the release schedule.
But by Tuesday, the date the MNsure's bipartisan legislative oversight panel is scheduled to discuss an earlier release, Dayton had decided an earlier release would be beneficial.
In his letter to the committee, the governor said he would like Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to request the state's health plans to agree to release rates around Oct. 1. That would give consumers about 45 days before open enrollment begins and put the 2014 release on roughly the same schedule as the 2013 release.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
Gov. Mark Dayton said the idea of releasing the health insurance rates on the state's health exchange before the election may just add political heat without shedding any light.
"The Republicans will make a political issue out of MNsure between now and the election for anything and everything. And, you know, we're taking it one step at a time," Dayton said.
State law requires the rates for MNsure, the Minnesota version of the health exchange created in the wake of the federal Affordable Care Act, to be released in mid-November. Republicans in the Legislature and those who hope to unseat Dayton see politics in that post-election release, which one has called a "cover up."
On Monday, the DFL governor said that the Commerce Department has received preliminary rate estimates from plans and is now negotiating them down. Dayton said he has not seen those preliminary rates and is not sure if they should be released before the November election.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," Dayton said. "I don't think it is going to shed any light on it. It is going to add a lot of heat to the lambasting that goes on."
An early release would likely require sign off from the health plans.
"Throwing MNsure farther into the thick of the all the political shots that are going to be taken to me is not (serving any purpose,)" Dayton said.
The governor said he has not made a final decision on whether he believes the rates should be released early but is disinclined to move toward release because of pressure from Republicans to do so.
"We will see how it unfolds," Dayton said.
On Tuesday, a state legislative MNsure panel will discuss the rate release schedule.
"Gov. Dayton should put politics aside, and give Minnesotans the time they need in order to make an informed decision as to the healthcare coverage they need," the Republican Party of Minnesota said in a news release Monday.
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
President Obama signed a disaster declaration for eight Minnesota counties to assist in recovery from the June storms and floods, according to the White House.
The declaration makes Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville, and Rock counties eligible for federal funding to aid the state and local governments in recovery.
"(Federal Emergency Management officials) said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed," the White House said in a news release.
According to Gov. Mark Dayton's office, "the most recent preliminary damage assessment figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows $37.1 million in eligible expenses:
The federal government will pay 75 percent of approved costs. The state will pick up the rest.
Members of the Minnesota congressional delegation jointly applauded the administration's move on the disaster declaration.
“Weeks of torrential downpour this summer triggered devastating flooding that inflicted severe damage all across our state,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a news release. “This disaster declaration will deliver critical funding and support to communities impacted by flooding and help our state rebuild and recover.”
The release, issued jointly with Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Democratic Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, also said: 'The declaration also makes all counties in Minnesota eligible for hazard mitigation funding on a cost-sharing basis to prevent future damage from natural hazards."
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson on Monday underwent unexpected surgery for a perforation in his stomach.
According to his campaign and staff at Hennepin County, where he is a commissioner, Johnson had stomach pain on Monday morning and went to urgent care. Shortly thereafter doctors decided he would need immediate surgery and he was moved to Maple Grove Hospital.
During surgery, doctors found what his campaign said was a "small perforation in Jeff's stomach. The perforation was repaired." By Monday afternoon, Johnson was out of surgery and recovering.
"Commissioner Johnson is in the Maple Grove Hospital and is expected to be there for about a week," according to an email from Hennepin County's director of public affairs Carolyn Marinan.
Gregg Peppin of the Johnson campaign said that Johnson had not previously had stomach problems.
The campaign cleared Johnson schedule for the rest of Monday and is expected to clear it for Tuesday. Peppin said the rest of the schedule is unclear.
He will have little time to recover before facing four-way Republican gubernatorial primary next month. On Aug, 12, he will vie against former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour.
Over the weekend, Johnson was on the campaign trail and tweeting about his activities.
Met my dad at the Otter Tail County fair in Fergus Falls this afternoon. On to Wadena pic.twitter.com/C16MBGyvOR— Johnson for Governor (@Jeff4Gov) July 19, 2014
Johnson's primary opponents wished him their best:
Best wishes and speedy recovery for Jeff Johnson. Was great to see you and your folks yesterday.— Marty Seifert (@seifertmn) July 21, 2014
Thoughts & prayers for @Jeff4Gov and his family as he recovers from surgery. Look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail soon!— Scott Honour (@ScottHonourMN) July 21, 2014
Gov. Mark Dayton began a Monday afternoon conference by wishing Johnson his best.
“I hope that he has a speedy and complete recovery,” Dayton said.
Johnson is not the only Minnesota candidate to have election year surgery.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had hip surgery earlier this year to repair a detached tendon in his hip, one of three Mayo Clinic procedures he has had done since taking office four years ago. Back in 2006, when she was making her first run for office, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had two hip surgeries.
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is heading to Iowa in August.
The senator has plans to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley who is vying against GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst in an open seat.
A Klobuchar aide confirmed over the weekend that Minnesota's senior senator would be campaigning for Braley Aug. 23.
Iowa is the first-in-the-nation presidential primary contest, which always means the state is a veritable runway for presidential hopefuls and those with higher ambitions -- even in off-years.
The Iowa precinct caucuses are the first week of January in 2016.
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