GOP wants income limits, health care changes

Published 10:26 am Friday, January 6, 2017

ST. PAUL — Republican legislative leaders vowed Thursday to quickly approve their own plan to offset massive health insurance premium hikes, but it could get hung up due to disagreements with Gov. Mark Dayton.

Since the session began Tuesday, politicians from both parties have made addressing the rate hikes — up to 67 percent in 2017 — their top priority. Gov. Mark Dayton has called for a state-funded rebate that would cover 25 percent of monthly premiums for residents who buy individual coverage through the state-run marketplace but make too much to qualify for federal subsidies.

The GOP’s plan would eventually adjust rebates based upon income: Consumers making three times the federal poverty level — about $71,000 for a family of four — would get a rebate for 30 percent of their insurance costs, while those making more would see 25 percent or less. The relief would be capped for those making eight times the poverty level.

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“We’re going to move as quickly as we can to get relief in the hands of Minnesotans,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said. House GOP plans to quickly pass their bill Thursday hit a procedural snag, while even slower movement was expected from the Senate.

Daudt and top Republicans said the GOP-suggested income restrictions squeeze the most out of the estimated $300 million needed to cover rising health insurance costs.

But Dayton and his administration said that kind of calculation is too cumbersome for his state agencies to deploy quick relief. Even Dayton’s plan, a system introduced more than two months ago and doesn’t require any income verification, would take several months to implement. With tax season approaching, setting up systems to verify insurance coverage, check income for 2017 and send out money could delay the launch even further and stick the state with extra costs.