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In this interview, incoming Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, nailed it when she was asked by the AP reporter if there will be a special session. Sen. Benson replied “I am less hopeful today than I was even a couple of days ago. We’re just not hearing anything from the governor that indicates he’s interested in the bigger picture in health care. There needs to be some understanding from the governor’s office that he wants to change things going forward. If we get that, I think we go a long way to opening the door to a special session.”

I wrote this post to highlight Gov. Dayton’s unseriousness in fixing Minnesota’s health care system. It wasn’t that long ago that Minnesota had the best health care and health insurance systems in the United States. That isn’t true anymore. Rather than fixing the problems are having, Gov. Dayton has chosen to criticize Republicans, saying “We’re running out of time. Quit dilly-dallying and get to work, and decide whether you are going to support my proposal, which is ready to go, and is viable, or you don’t want to do it.”

First, Republicans have agreed that there needs to be a rebate system for this year to help people who don’t qualify for the federal subsidies. That’s the entirety of Gov. Dayton’s plan. Gov. Dayton’s plan doesn’t do anything to fix anything for the long-term. If that isn’t fixed, Minnesotans will be faced with a bigger crisis this time next year. This isn’t a matter of Republicans “dilly-dallying around.” It’s a matter of whether Gov. Dayton will stop pretending the ACA is a solid health care system. It isn’t.

Q: How much can the Legislature really do before the changes from the federal level become clear?
A: We have to put some solid things in place. I think we have to look at a reinsurance program (to help insurers pay for high-cost patients). How do we improve choice of competitiveness? I don’t know if we’ve already gone too far. Can the individual market recover?

Thanks to Minnesota’s reinsurance program, Minnesotans with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance at a reasonable price. It isn’t coincidental that health insurance premiums have skyrocketed since it was eliminated.

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Jay Kolls’ article highlights the Department of Human Services’ incompetence:

The Minnesota Department of Human Services sent 3,000 letters to homes of MinnesotaCare recipients who may have received incorrect monthly billing statements after they applied for health coverage through MNsure, the state’s new health care exchange. The letter tells those recipients the bills may have been wrong for several months, but they encouraged those clients to keep paying the bills anyway.

It’s ironic (and infuriating) that the Department of Human Services quickly sent out letters to MinnesotaCare applicant to keep paying their insurance premiums but they’re still working on sending out the letters to people who applied for MinnesotaCare but didn’t submit all of the paperwork that’s required for application approval.

Put a little differently, Dayton’s Department of Human Services wants its money ASAP but it isn’t that interested in getting MinnesotaCare applicants insured.

That’s a terrible priority to set.

State Sen. Michelle Benson, (R) Ham Lake, sits on the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee. She says the MNsure vendors still play a role in this problem even though the billing is handled by DHS.

“If a private company told its clients to keep paying monthly health insurance premiums even if they might be incorrect, the Minnesota Department of Commerce would come in and clean house,” Benson said.

In addition to the Department of Commerce getting involved, it isn’t a stretch to think that Lori Swanson, Minnesota’s Attorney General, might start an investigation if a private company did this.

MNsure representatives did not want to do an on-camera interview with us because DHS handles all of its billing practices.

DHS officials also declined to comment on-camera but issued a statement that says, in part, “We are working with our IT staff and MNsure vendors to correct these issues, and MinnesotaCare coverage for those households remains in place.”

It isn’t surprising that the Dayton administration didn’t want to answer KSTP’s questions. They’re probably thinking that the last thing they want is to subject themselves to tough questions about a difficult situation.

With MNsure certain to not work again when this year’s open enrollment period begins and with the Dayton administration’s incompetence still manifesting itself, it’s a matter of whether Minnesotans will accept this level of incompetence. If they don’t, this won’t be a good year for Democrats.

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Towards the end of the 2014 legislative session, the DFL quietly passed a $400,000,000 bailout of MNsure. Technically, the bailout was for MinnCare but MNsure caused MinnCare’s insolvency. Based on the information in this Pi-Press article, that bailout was just the tip of an iceberg. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Most of those enrolled through the exchange are on public subsidies. As of last week, nearly a quarter-million Minnesotans had enrolled. Of those, 88 percent, 218,615 out of a total of 249,369, are receiving a public subsidy.

That leaves 30,754 Minnesotans who purchased a plan on their own via MNsure.

The ratio of subsidized to “commercial” enrollees “needs a long hard look going forward,” said Julie Brunner, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. Unless they “ramp up significantly,” she wonders if the low numbers on the commercial side will provide “the financial support that MNsure needs to have a balanced budget.”

That’s stunning information. Based on that information, MNsure isn’t sustainable financially. If MNsure needs a bailout, that means tax increases can’t be far behind. This is more bad news:

The system is preparing to absorb still more public enrollees. MNsure has delayed until August a major transition of public insurance beneficiaries to the system. About 800,000 Minnesotans will be renewing their current coverage.

MNsure CEO Scott Leitz told the editorial board earlier this month that the agency “wanted the system to be stable” to handle the influx.

That’s disturbing because MNsure isn’t stable:

During the assessment, 47 of the 73 sub-functions addressed were found either to be absent or not functioning as expected. Six of the 73 sub-functions could be considered for implementation post-open enrollment. The remaining 41 sub-functions need to be provided for the 2015 Open Enrollment either through changes/enhancements to the systems or through contingent means.

That’s what instability sounds like. Last fall, MNsure’s rollout was a disaster. This year’s open enrollment will be a bigger disaster than last year’s open enrollment. Thanks in part to that, the revenue shortfall will be greater this year than last year.

With MNsure stability being at least a year away, it’s likely that the shortfall for the next biennium will be huge. It’s difficult to see this turning out well for Minnesota taxpayers. In the end, though, these shortfalls will put pressure on the DFL Senate to resist changing MNsure.

It’s time for the DFL to accept the reality that it’s time to start over on health care reform. When a system is this disfunctional, this expensive and this unpopular, it’s time to start from scratch. Minnesota was a leader in health care. We should’ve learned from that. Instead, Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature created this financial nightmare.

Sen. Michelle Benson might’ve put it best:

A key point, however, noted by the Pioneer Press’ Christopher Snowbeck: The report couldn’t say exactly where the uninsured found coverage, that is, whether insurance was obtained through public programs, private insurers available through MNsure or commercial plans sold outside the health exchange.

He noted pushback from legislative Republicans, including the contention of Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake that, to the extent the reduction came from people enrolling in the state’s Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare insurance programs, the state “didn’t need MNsure at all.”

That’s spot on. Rather than weighing the options, Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen let their ideology drive their votes. As a result, all Minnesotans will be hurt financially.

Let’s be clear about this. There aren’t enough rich people in Minnesota to raise taxes on…again. The DFL will have to raise taxes on the middle class if these MNsure deficits continue as expected.

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Former Minneota Gov. Al Quie has endorsed Marty Seifert’s bid to replace Gov. Mark Dayton. Quie was once barred from participating in GOP events, including the 2012 Republican National Convention. First, here’s Quie’s endorsement:

“I have been impressed by Seifert’s ability to connect with Minnesotans all over our state and his unique grasp of the issues that are important for our future,” said Quie. “We need a leader who is dedicated to justice and he will appoint judges and justices who respect the law and the Constitution, have radical integrity, and who will respect the litigants.”

Quie is urging his fellow Republicans to vote for Seifert in the upcoming August 12th primary in order to defeat Dayton.

“Just as I defeated a DFL incumbent to become governor, Marty Seifert has the ability to bring people together and win in November.”

The notion that Seifert “has the ability to bring people together” is only credible if you think he pushed some of his supporters into supporting someone other than him when he tried to prevent Republicans from endorsing a candidate for governor.

Further, a substantial number of Seifert supporters also support judicial elections. Quie is the face of retention elections, which opposes judicial elections.

The reality is that Quie hasn’t been relevant to Republican Party politics for almost a generation. He’s from the RINO wing of the Minnesota GOP. Here’s more on why Quie was disciplined:

MPR reports that delegates to the party’s state central committee meeting voted 59-55 Saturday to bar 18 Republicans from party activities for two years, including the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The list of those who supported Independence Party candidate Tom Horner includes former Govs. Arne Carlson and Al Quie, former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and donor George Pillsbury.

If Marty Seifert wants Quie’s endorsement, that’s his option. If Quie wants to endorse Seifert, that’s fine, too. The question is whether Quie’s support will have a positive impact on Republicans. I’m betting it won’t because most of the people who will vote in August’s primary don’t know who Quie is because he served before they were born. Here’s Seifert’s spin on Quie’s endorsement:

“Governor Quie has been universally praised for being a public servant willing to take risks, offering out-of-the-box ideas for education and judicial reforms,” said Seifert. “I am looking forward to hearing more of his advice on how to make Minnesota an even better place.”

Now that’s professional spin. Saying that Quie is “willing to take risks”, I suspect, is Seifert’s way of saying he’s supported former Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner’s tax increases and Horner’s candidacy. Nothing says ‘Let’s pull people together’ like getting endorsed by one of the erstwhile Republicans who cost Tom Emmer the election in 2010.

Compare that with State Sen. Michelle Benson endorsing Jeff Johnson, the endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate. Sen. Benson is a talented legislator with impeccable conservative credentials and who’s very much relevant in Republican Party politics.

The latest KSTP-SurveyUSA poll showed Seifert trailing Jeff Johnson and Kurt Zellers by 10 points. There’s no reason to think the endorsement battle will help Seifert close that gap in any substantial way.

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