Gov. Dayton regrets political spin of 'no longer affordable' health care remark

- In a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Dayton said he regrets that his statement he made last week about the Affordable Care Act being “no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people” is being used against Democratic candidates in the 2016 election cycle.

“Yesterday, President Obama said: ‘Just because a lot of the Republican criticism has been proven to be false and politically motivated, doesn’t mean there aren’t some legitimate concerns about how the law is working now.’ I agree. For the 95 percent of Minnesotans who are covered through the Medicaid expansion, MinnesotaCare, or their employer, the law is working. It’s working for the 3 percent, who qualify for the federal tax credits through MNsure. But the law isn’t working well for the 2 percent of Minnesotans in the individual market, who don’t receive any financial assistance to pay for their coverage.

“In this emergency for some Minnesotans and their families, I am hopeful that DFL and Republican legislators will be able to set aside the politics of the Affordable Care Act, work together, and find a short-term solution for those in crisis. During the past couple of weeks, some legislative leaders have said a special session is critical. It is now time to walk the talk and agree upon a solution to provide much-needed relief.

“I urge the four Caucus leaders to decide quickly how they want their members to work with our administration to devise a plan of action for these Minnesotans who are not eligible for federal tax credits. That plan should be agreed upon before November 1st, so that the Minnesotans needing our help can know what it will be, before the Open Enrollment Period begins. After the four Caucuses have agreed upon a plan and their four leaders, the Lt. Governor, and I have agreed to the parameters of a Special Session, I will call it.

“I propose that the approximately $313 million, which is scheduled to be added to the existing $1.9 billion Reserve on December 2nd, be instead used to provide financial assistance to those Minnesotans, whose premium increases would cost an excessive percentage of their incomes. The Reserve is intended for ‘Rainy Days.’ Right now, it is pouring on some Minnesotans. Fortunately, our previous budget surpluses and sound fiscal management have built up this healthy $1.9 billion Reserve, thus enabling us to use the additional money for this present emergency.

“There are 120,000 Minnesotans who purchase on the individual market, and whose incomes exceed the federal eligibility levels (400 percent of the poverty level, or $47,000 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four). These are the Minnesotans who urgently need our help.

“Minnesotans, who receive their health insurance through their employers, Medicare, Medicaid, or Minnesota Care, need not worry about the large rate increases, which have been receiving so much recent publicity. They will affect only people, who buy their insurance in the so-called Individual Market. And those Minnesotans, who buy their individual policies through MNsure and qualify for the federal tax credits, will be largely protected from those increases.

“The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that there are as many as 100,000 Minnesotans, who are eligible for state health care programs and federal tax credits but currently are not taking advantage of them. So I strongly urge Minnesotans to contact MNsure representatives and find out how much those tax credits could reduce, or even eliminate, their premium hikes. I am also calling on the health insurers to send letters to all of their members, encouraging them to shop through MNsure.

“Time is running short, so legislators must begin their work immediately and reach agreement quickly.”

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