For the thousands of Minnesotans across the state who have been hurt by skyrocketing premiums thanks to Obamacare and MNsure, there was some good news out of Saint Paul last week. The legislature passed The 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill that will help families struggling to afford their health insurance, as well as implement meaningful reforms to begin addressing our state’s health care crisis. Governor Dayton signed the bill into law.
The first part of this bill funds $312 million for a 25 percent premium reduction for more than 125,000 Minnesotans who purchased health insurance on the individual market and do not qualify for MNsure tax credits. The reduction will be for every month of 2017 and will be administered through insurance companies. People are expected to start seeing these rebates in the next 8 to 12 weeks.
Additionally, unlike the governor’s original premium relief proposal, the compromise language signed into law ensures significant program integrity measures including data privacy protection and residency verification. Furthermore, to protect taxpayers, the non-partisan Legislative Auditor is empowered to recover any funds that are not spent according to the requirements of the program.
For families in Wright County seeing their insurance costs go up year after year, this premium rebate will be welcome relief in 2017, but going forward we need real, substantial reforms to make health care more accessible and affordable. This legislation also takes the first steps to address our failing health care market, implementing a number of key reforms including allowing for-profit HMOs to operate in our state to increase competition and choice for consumers; providing greater transparency for any proposed premium changes so that Minnesotans are not blindsided by high premium hikes; prohibiting surprise billing to protect consumers; providing employers with more ways to contribute to or offer affordable insurance for their employees; and preserving access to life-saving treatment for Minnesotans losing access to their doctor by extending coverage for up to 120 days.
Republicans in the House and Senate fought hard to include reforms in this legislation, because premium relief alone is a Band-Aid that will not keep costs down or help Minnesotans going forward. I am glad we were able to get this bill passed in the first month of session. It is a great first-step, and the bipartisan compromise that came out of this bill is, I believe, a sign of good things to come later this spring as we work to pass more reforms that address our state’s health care crisis.
If you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.