Ever since Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Department announced the 50- to 67-percent increases for next year’s individual health-insurance rates, Minnesotans have been contacting legislative offices, concerned about what it means for their families.
They’re scared that they won’t be able to afford health care for their families next year, or, worse, that they’ll have a medical emergency that will put them on the verge of bankruptcy due to their unaffordable deductibles. They’re frustrated that Democrats’ promises of lower cost and more choices have turned out to be totally false.
As co-chair of MNsure’s Legislative Oversight Committee, I’m extremely disappointed that at a time when Minnesotans are looking for leadership and solutions, Dayton is playing the political blame game, pointing fingers at Republicans, and promoting his own partisan political agenda. In “Don’t believe Republicans: MNsure isn’t the problem” (Oct. 19), he urged Minnesotans to elect Democrats and send our state back to single-party control.
It’s shameful, and Minnesotans deserve better.
The governor claims he needs DFL control of the Legislature to fix health care in Minnesota. Let’s review what happened last time Dayton had a blank check to implement his agenda. According to news reports at the time, “No state [was] set to embrace the Affordable Care Act as thoroughly as Minnesota.”
Dayton and his DFL allies in the Legislature raised taxes on health care to pay for the disastrous $400 million MNsure website. Democrats gave MNsure special exemptions from financial-oversight and IT procurement laws, and blocked health-care experts from serving on the board. The Legislature even allowed bonuses for MNsure executives while the website was melting down and Minnesotans were suffering. MNsure was forced through the Legislature without a single Republican vote, and nearly all Republican amendments and concerns were ignored.
What’s been the result of this wholehearted embrace of Obamacare?
Minnesota’s once nation-leading health-care system has been brought to the brink of collapse. Obamacare eliminated a successful program known as MCHA that helped insure low-income Minnesotans with pre-existing conditions. We were a model that other states were emulating. With Obamacare’s mandates, all that went away.
It’s heartbreaking to hear from middle-class families who will pay $30,000 out of pocket before they see any benefit from their “insurance.” In the metro area, a family of four will see an increase of $811 per month from 2014 for lesser coverage. In Greater Minnesota, those costs are even worse. Families are faced with fewer and fewer choices, and many skip needed trips to the doctor because they can’t afford their deductibles. Is this the “Better Minnesota” that Dayton promised?
Despite admitting recently that Obamacare is “no longer affordable,” the governor is trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation by claiming that it’s only a small handful of residents dealing with this crisis. It’s not. It’s farmers, small-business owners, working families; our neighbors and friends. They’re looking for answers while Dayton plays election season politics.
House Republicans aren’t interested in the politics of the situation; we’re looking for answers, just as we have since we tried to amend MNsure in 2013. We’ve proposed both short- and long-term solutions to provide relief for residents throughout the state. With open enrollment starting in November, we need to take swift action to deliver direct premium assistance.
We can cut the MNsure tax by half, saving Minnesotans $22 million, and use $35 million in leftover MCHA funds to go straight to helping reduce premiums. In the long term, we can transition to the federal exchange to save money, seek a waiver on tax penalties for non-qualifying plans, and enable Minnesotans to access tax credits even if they buy insurance through more convenient websites.
These are real, tangible solutions that can help those who are struggling. We are open to ideas, including a reinsurance program similar to what Minnesota had before Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all mandates were put into place.
When a doctor commits malpractice, you don’t hire that same doctor to fix the problem he or she caused. For the past three years Democrats have resisted common-sense reform, and brought the individual market to the brink of collapse. The prescription to fix Obamacare is not for Democrats to double-down on policies that are failing families. We need bipartisan, balanced solutions — and Republicans welcome Democrats’ newfound willingness to address the problem they created.
Greg Davids, R-Preston, is a member of the Minnesota House.