In a stunning admission, Gov. Dayton admitted that the ACA isn’t affordable for many Minnesotans. It’s stunning that Gov. Dayton would say “Ultimately … the reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for an increasing number of people. We’re going to need both state and federal governments to step in and do what they need to do to remedy these problems.”

It isn’t quite like FDR admitting that the New Deal was a failure or LBJ admitting that the Great Society is a failure but it isn’t that far from it in terms of its political impact. With DFL candidates campaigning across the state, this is like a neutron bomb detonating on their campaigns. Understanding the importance of Gov. Dayton’s statement, Senate Republicans pounced on Gov. Dayton’s statement, releasing this statement, saying “Senate Republicans today vowed to pass bold legislation to lower health insurance costs and make more options available to Minnesotans when they reconvene as the majority caucus in January. The announcement came three days after individual insurance rates increased by an average of 50-67%, and Minnesota became the first state to institute widespread caps on the number of new enrollees allowed to purchase plans. The situation has been described as a healthcare crisis for Minnesotans.”

Here are the things that Minnesota Republicans proposed:

To achieve lower premiums and deductibles:

  1. Restore a statewide high-risk pool (like the former Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association – MCHA) to make the individual market healthier, more sustainable, and less expensive.
  2. Allow a tax deduction for health insurance premiums for individuals and families who don’t qualify for group insurance.

To achieve more choices in the marketplace:

  1. Allow entities other than employers to offer group health insurance for their members. This would include organizations like agriculture cooperatives, fraternal organizations, clubs, etc.
  2. Allow all independent doctors, clinics, and hospitals to be considered in-network providers (as long as they meet the network qualifications).

To achieve a more efficient system:

  1. Allow individuals, families, and small employers to skip the hassles of MNsure by purchasing coverage directly through insurance agents, while still receiving the same tax credits available to MNsure enrollees.
  2. Allow Minnesotans to enroll in public health insurance programs like Medical Assistance through their counties instead of through MNsure by expanding County Based Purchasing.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann said this in the statement:

In the three and a half years since MNsure was created, insurance costs have shot through the roof, millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on fraudulent applications, hundreds of thousands of families lost their doctors, and enrollment obstacles have delayed cancer treatments, even costing one woman her life. Despite all of this, Democrats in the legislature haven’t lifted a finger to fix it, or even stop MNsure executives from receiving thousands in unfair bonuses. Minnesotans need to decide: Do you want more of the same top-down regulations that caused this mess? Or do you want to lower costs and increase choices by tailoring the health insurance market to individual needs? Republicans will bring our health insurance market back from the brink of collapse by instituting patient-centered, common sense reforms.

The DFL created this crisis. Dayton administration Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman characterized the situation this way:

These are middle-class Minnesotans. They are getting squeezed — crushed — by these health insurance costs.

That’s right. They’re getting crushed by the things that the DFL voted for. Republicans offered lots of amendments to the bill but each was defeated by the DFL on straight party line votes. During the 2015 and 2016 sessions, Republicans offered alternatives but the DFL Senate consistently stopped the Republicans’ legislation.

I’ll word it differently than Sen. Hann. If Minnesotans want high premium increases, they should maintain the status quo in the legislature. If Minnesotans want real reform and lower health insurance premiums, their only option is to vote for Republicans.

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