House Republicans are proposing a tax cut, a waiver from federal rules and the elimination of the MNsure exchange in response to sky-high premium increases in the market where people buy health insurance for themselves.
DFLers countered that Republicans weren’t addressing the key issue of rising health care costs that need to be spread across more people.
The comments came during news conferences Wednesday near the State Capitol after health insurers last week said they would hike premiums by 50 percent or more, and cap enrollment in some cases.
Regulators said the emergency measures were needed to prevent a collapse of the individual market, where about 5 percent of state residents buy health insurance.
“Minnesotans are in a health care crisis right now,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said during a separate news conference: “There clearly is a problem. ... There’s too many families struggling with the increasing costs.”
House Republicans renewed their call for Minnesota to drop the MNsure exchange, and move to the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website, which serves as the exchange in most states.
Republicans want to cut in half a tax that’s currently used to fund MNsure, saying it would save $22 million over three years.
They also would dedicate to premium relief $35 million in funds that are left over from the state’s high-risk pool, which is how the state handled preexisting condition exclusions before those health insurance rules were eliminated by the health law.
Thissen said DFLers want to address the rising cost of health care by putting a lid on the cost of prescription drugs. They also want to eliminate “surprise bills” that are connected to out-of-network health care services — a measure that Republicans on Wednesday said they support, too.
When it comes to health insurance coverage, DFLers have proposed expanding access to the MinnesotaCare program, Thissen said, and would consider a “reinsurance” program. Such a program would help insurers cover costs for individuals with unusually expensive health care needs, he said, but it’s unclear how such a program would be funded.
There are different strategies for the state to consider, said Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, but it’s unlikely that lawmakers will find a quick fix before the November election.
Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744