Others’ opinion: Make a deal on MNsure fix

Published 9:59 am Monday, October 31, 2016

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

Escalating rhetoric between Minnesota Republicans and DFLers over how to help consumers affected by health insurance price hikes has been discouraging, especially to those who need help paying monthly premiums beginning in January. But those able to take a higher-altitude view of the political maneuverings should see that the ingredients for a legislative deal to provide cost relief are on the table, even after House Speaker Kurt Daudt unhelpfully said he might demand Gov. Mark Dayton’s resignation.

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Dayton earlier this month identified a funding source — $313 million from the state surplus — to provide a subsidy to the narrow slice of consumers who buy insurance on their own and don’t qualify for federal aid through MNsure. While Senate and House DFL leaders have proposed state tax credits or rebates, Dayton built on that foundation Thursday with a costly but sensible plan that would provide generous, instant discounts on monthly premiums.

Dayton’s plan would rebate 25 percent of a benchmark plan’s cost. Insurers, if they agree to do so, would administer the rebate. The aid would help many consumers buy better-quality plans with lower deductibles and would significantly reduce consumers’ average rate increases.

Meanwhile, Daudt made it clear the GOP wants any deal to include protection for consumers who might run up against new enrollment caps and be unable to buy 2017 coverage. Insurers and state officials say the caps have flexibility, but a more detailed contingency plan is needed. Adding those protections to a deal on aid should generate more Republican support.

The GOP also wants to expand narrow medical provider networks and health plan choices. Those longer-term goals are shared by the DFL. The time to consider them is during the regular legislative session, but less costly alternatives to the proposed emergency state rebate program should be lawmakers’ top priority.

Fortunately there’s common ground on short-term aid. It’s time to make a deal.