More than 250,000 Minnesotans are in for a frightening Halloween surprise. Their insurance premiums are going up a shocking 50 percent or more. Imagine having to now pay $22,000, $30,000 or even more for your health plan. How would you like a $12,000 deductible! As a bonus, they get to have a whole new set of doctors who may not even be able to care for their unique illnesses or preexisting conditions.
Welcome to health care in Minnesota, 2016-style. The result of the well-intended “Affordable Care Act” and Minnesota’s flawed implementation plan is truly a nightmare. It’s not affordable, and not very full of care.
We were all promised that health costs would go down, that we could keep the insurance plan we liked, and that for sure we could keep that family doctor who served our family so well. That didn’t happen.
It is time for the governor, his commissioners, and the Legislature to act.
What matters now are these 250,000 hard-working Minnesotans. They are the victims of years of political malpractice. What matters now is what is going to happen to these people who don’t get their insurance at work or who don’t get subsidized state plans like MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance.
These people live and work on Main Street in your town. They sell cars, repair garage doors, own a grocery store, farm the land, and sell you hardware from the store their grandfather started. They are generous, volunteer at the local hospital and sponsor Rotary Club charities. They hold the fabric of our towns together. They used to have some pretty good health-care options. Now they have few, and they face financial ruin.
Consider the true story of Craig, age 55, and his wife, who make $70,000 a year. Their house payment is a modest $800 a month, and they drive cars that are 18 years old. His health-care premiums and deductible will total $32,000 next year. Craig worries about how they will live. He worries about access to the doctors who treat his and his wife’s chronic health condition. What are they going to do?
It is time for the government that is supposed to serve Craig and his wife to stop crushing them. They can’t wait for a lengthy, procedural process. In fact, they can’t wait at all.
It is time to stop the political arguing and help these mainstays of our towns.
Though it’s complicated, we need to set up something called a reinsurance pool, which covers people with the highest costs of care. We had one that worked pretty well, called the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA) However, the federal government made us get rid of it as part of its plan to make health insurance more “affordable.”
Alaska set up its own reinsurance pool, a modernized version of our old MCHA program, and it’s working.
This idea, and improving on the old MCHA to help make coverage more affordable for those who rely on it, is the one thing all the politicos and commissioners can and should agree on. Let’s put all the rest of our disagreements aside for now. It will make a huge difference for Craig and the rest of those families.
The Prescription: Legislative committees should get to work promptly to craft our own “Minnesota Solution.” Gov. Dayton should call a special session for Nov. 9, the day after the election. We will then pass a bipartisan bill to get Minnesota to where Alaska is. And, yes, it will cost some money, but it’s worth it. What group has paid more in taxes and given more in goodwill to their communities than this group of Minnesotans?
We need to expect that our state agencies and departments move heaven and earth to rescue Craig, his wife, and the rest of those 250,000 faithful citizens who are on the edge of financial disaster. They need their state government to set up our “Minnesota Solution” in record time. It can be done because it must be done.
While we’re at it, we can repass that really good tax-reduction bill that’s still waiting for action, which will give tax cuts to farmers, veterans, and small-business owners.
Then Craig, his wife, and 250,000 other Minnesotans can relax.
Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, is a member of the Minnesota Senate. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, is a member of the Minnesota House.