Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement with the federal government on Monday for the state's new "reinsurance" program, which discounts premiums by about 20 percent next year from where they otherwise might fall in Minnesota's individual market.

In a letter to federal officials, however, Dayton said he still objects to related cuts in federal funding for the MinnesotaCare health insurance program.

About 166,000 state residents buy health insurance in the individual market, which primarily serves people under age 65 who are self-employed or don't get coverage from their employer or a government program.

"I remain strongly opposed to the Trump Administration's proposed cuts to MinnesotaCare, which provides good quality and affordable health coverage to 100,000 Minnesotans," Dayton said in a statement. "I assure everyone who is now covered by MinnesotaCare that we have sufficient funding to operate this program at its current levels through calendar year 2018."

The governor's signature should remove any question about whether insurance carriers would sell 2018 coverage at lower rates thanks to the new program. State officials announced the lower rates earlier this month, yet the reinsurance program was not final without the governor's signature on the "waiver" agreement with federal officials.

Many who buy individual market coverage do so through Minnesota's MNsure health insurance exchange. On Monday, MNsure announced that consumers can now use the health exchange to look at options for next year.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1. State officials said that federal tax credits available to people at certain income levels when buying coverage on the exchange will save enrollees an average of $7,000 next year.

"Individuals earning up to $48,240 annually, or a family of four earning up to $98,400 per year qualify for a tax credit," MNsure said Monday in a statement. "Approximately 65 percent of current enrollees are receiving tax credits."

In his statement, Dayton said he maintains his position that Minnesota is entitled to MinnesotaCare funding under the federal Affordable Care Act's provisions for what's called a Basic Health Program.

"I have not waived those rights by signing this waiver," Dayton said. "My administration will continue our bipartisan efforts with Minnesota's congressional delegation to retain full federal funding for MinnesotaCare, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of this vital program."

In a statement praising the waiver signing, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka took a similar stance: "Gov. Dayton's action on our federal waiver today was the right thing to do for the thousands of Minnesota families facing huge increases in their health insurance premiums. We appreciate his cooperation in this bi-partisan reinsurance bill and share his concerns about ongoing funding for MinnesotaCare."

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck