Republican lawmakers have unveiled their plan for helping Minnesotans facing rising premiums on the individual health care market -- and pledged Thursday to pass it in the Legislature next week.
The proposal offered up on the third day of the legislative session would spend $300 million to offer a three-month-long, 25 percent premium reduction to everyone on the individual market who don't qualify for other subsidies. After those three months are up, the assistance would be limited to people who meet specific income guidelines: individuals who make less than $95,040 per year or a family of four making $194,400 or less.
The premium reductions would be administered by the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, which would run the calculations to determine who would qualify. Republicans said they'd set aside $15 million of the total amount to cover continuing care for people who are dealing with specific conditions, like life-threatening illnesses or pregnancy, and lose their insurance after 120 days. The money would come from the state's reserve fund, which Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said was an appropriate use for something lawmakers consider an emergency.
"We call it the rainy day fund, and for a lot of people in Minnesota, it's raining," he said.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said the bill could move forward in the house as soon as today, but that he aimed to see it passed by next week. Senate leaders said debate on the bill in that chamber would follow the action in the House.
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, the author of the bill in the Senate, said the bill is meant to " unwind some of what has been done to the state of Minnesota by the (Affordable Care Act.)" She said it would be the first in several steps of reforms Republicans aim to pass to change Minnesota's health care system.
First, however, they'll have to find agreement from Gov. Dayton, who has been proposing a health-care fix of his own for months.Daudt and Gazelka said they met with the governor on Tuesday and are in agreement about the process of moving the bills through the Legislature -- though not necessarily in agreement on all of their details.
The governor's plan, which he says would cost $313 million, would provide a 25 percent rebate for all of the approximately 123,000 Minnesotans who are in the individual market and not eligible for subsidies. That assistance would last for all of 2017. Funding would come from money headed for the state's budget reserves. The proposal is the same one that led to weeks of debate between Dayton and Daudt as they attempted to agree to the terms of a special session in late 2016.
The specifics of the rebate are unlikely to be the only topics up for debate, as the Republicans' plan comes with other new proposals. Among them: allowing for-profit insurance companies to operate in Minnesota.