A handful of Minnesotans shared stories of steep health insurance premium increases, high deductibles and restricted choices at a Friday event arranged by House Republicans.
“My only option is to burn through my life savings,” said Ellis Gottlieb, who lives in Golden Valley and owns a property management company.
He said he expected to pay $19,200 on health insurance premiums next year while losing access to his doctor of 20 years.
Premiums are rising 50 percent or more next year in the individual insurance market. Enrollment caps, especially outside the Twin Cities, are further reducing access to the 5 percent of Minnesotans — or about 250,000 people — who buy their insurance as individuals. Many of those consumers have already seen significant rate hikes over the past two years.
Minnesotans covered by employer plans, Medicare and other government programs aren’t affected.
“I know it only affects 5 percent of Minnesotans, but it scares every Minnesotan,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, at a Friday news conference. He said health care premium hikes are the No. 1 issue voters want to talk about during election door-knocking.
Daudt and his Republican caucus are trying to fend off a DFL challenge to their control of the House.
The House DFL released the outlines of a plan Friday that would cap health insurance premiums to 10 percent of income, with the difference paid for with tobacco tax money and some health care related funds.
Republicans have stepped up attacks on MNsure, the state health insurance exchange for individual consumers, since DFL Gov. Mark Dayton conceded this week that premiums have become unaffordable for many Minnesotans. Dayton’s comments made national news, drawing the attention of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Senate DFL leaders, who are defending the party’s majority, held a news conference Friday to say they take the issue seriously. They said multiple ideas put forward during the 2016 legislative session were rejected by House Republicans.
To say DFLers did nothing “is a smear on me and the work we did,” said Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, who is retiring this year. According to a news release, Senate DFLers proposed allowing people to buy into the public health insurance program MinnesotaCare, re-importing prescription drugs from Canada and expanding the health care tax credit, among other plans to reduce premiums and help people in the individual market.
Sheran said one-third of eligible Minnesotans are not applying for tax credits to which they are entitled and that would lower the cost of their premiums. Minnesotans with household incomes up to about $47,000 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four qualify for tax breaks.