Dayton blasts federal government for holding up lower cost insurance program

- As the health care debate heats up again in Washington D.C., Governor Mark Dayton is cranking up the pressure on the Trump administration.

Dayton claims that the federal government is holding up a program that could lower insurance costs for thousands of Minnesotans.

“These are real people's lives that they are threatening,” said Governor Dayton.

Dayton says there is no more time. MNsure's open enrollment begins in five weeks and the plan to reduce individual health insurance rates by up to 20 percent depends on hearing from the federal government. He says they're dragging their feet.

“I've never experienced anything like this,” said Dayton. “I can't even get the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the telephone. I can't get even a phone number to call him to raise the issue.”

One of the first items of the 2017 Legislature was a bipartisan plan, approving what it called "reinsurance." Allowed under the Affordable Care Act, it takes federal money and helps insurers pay high cost claims, which is how insurance can then lower premiums across the board.

To get the legislative plan approved, the state filed a waiver request in May and state leaders are still waiting.

“This delay could potentially have a real impact on Minnesotans,” said Allison O’Toole, MNsure CEO. “I hear every day, I talk to consumers every day, about how nervous they are about their coverage and they can't sustain increased premiums again this year.”

In a letter sent Tuesday by the governor to the U.S. Health and Human Services, he revealed they'd learned informally that reinsurance would soon be approved at a cost.

The $208 million needed for reinsurance would come with losing $369 million in federal funding for MinnesotaCare, the state's program for the working poor.

Dayton says he'll fight that, assuming it all doesn't change anyway.

“Of course all this is up in the air because if they repeal the ACA, then all bets are off for everything,” said Dayton.

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