Understanding competing health care visions

Published 10:00 am Monday, January 16, 2017

The first few weeks of the 2017 legislative session have kicked off with both parties highlighting their top priority — finding a solution to skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Last fall, health insurance companies announced new rates for Minnesotans who purchase their health insurance on MNsure and the individual market.

Last week, Governor Dayton came out with his proposal — an across the board 25 percent reduction in premiums for all 125,000 Minnesotans who purchase their health insurance through MNsure. This plan is simple — and more importantly it offers quick relief within a matter of months.

Under the Governor’s proposal, some families could save as much as $594 per month on their premiums. The premium rebate proposal is targeted to help everyone who is not eligible for the federal advanced premium tax credits and whose income is above $47,520 for an individual and $97,200 for a family of four. If implemented now, Minnesotans would see reduced premium payments in March and discounted rates would be retroactive to Jan.1, 2017.

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Senate and House Republicans have offered an alternative that is more complex because of a means test (which examines how much money a recipient earns in the last year), and how it delivers the relief. Their plan makes a one-time appropriation of $300 million from the state’s budget reserve to help reduce premiums in 2017 for Minnesotans with incomes from 300 percent to 800 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines who purchase their insurance on the individual market. ($35,640 to $95,040 for an individual and $72,900 to $194,400 for a family of four).

For the first three months, all eligible individuals would receive a 25 percent premium reduction. For the remainder of 2017, premium reductions would be based on income with some individuals receiving up to a 30 percent premium reduction. The premium relief would be administered by the Department of Management and Budget (MMB) in the reform of a rebate check to the individuals. Meaning families would still need to account for the larger premiums while awaiting their rebates that could be delayed until 2018 and would be considered taxable income.

Their proposal also includes additional insurance reforms. I support passing a significant reform package, and want to see reinsurance and agricultural cooperative health plan options as part of that reform. But, relief for 2017 is the most important issue at hand. Families are needing to make decisions now. Additional reforms should be considered carefully, receive public input, and not jeopardize the financial futures of Minnesotans and the state.
This is an incredibly important issue. I have heard from many of my constituents about the critical nature of passing something to offer relief. That’s why, I fully support the Governor’s plan for more timely and straightforward relief. The people of Minnesota cannot afford to wait as much as a year for reimbursement.

As your senator, it’s important that I’m standing up for you first and foremost. There is still a bill moving forward, but it needs a lot of work to be the relief that is so desperately needed.