Healthcare Policy is Top Priority for MN’s Government



Theo Menon

Many issues are on the docket for the new GOP-controlled Minnesota State Legislature. These issues range from tax reform to Sunday liquor sales. Although party squabbling continues to ensue at the State Capitol, Democrats and Republicans alike are making headway on one key issue: healthcare.

Since before the legislative session began, healthcare policy has been a chief priority for members of both major parties in St. Paul. Just mere weeks into the beginning of the new session for the state of Minnesota, local politicians signed a law to address key healthcare issues.

The state of Minnesota became a lightning rod for the national healthcare debate last year, as premium hikes for its residents ranked among the highest in the country. The only states to outrank Minnesota were Arizona, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Now-President Donald Trump frequently spoke about Minnesota during hiscampaign.

Even so, Republicans did not criticize Minnesota’s healthcare system alone; even Governor Mark Dayton criticized the failings of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Dayton, a Democrat, made national headlines this past fall after telling the press that the ACA is unfortunately not affordable for too many Minnesotans.

Minnesota’s Republican Party promotedhealthcare changes asa key part of local campaigns during last year’s election cycle. With the Republicans winning historic majorities in both the State House and the State Senate, a new plan was soon to follow. Leaders on both sides of the aisle zeroed in on one subject: Minnesota’s notoriously high premiums.

The bill will cost approximately $320 million to pay for relief. It will provide premium relief for roughly 120,000 Minnesotans; these individuals are buying healthcare from the individual market, but do not receive any options for federal healthcare subsidies. The group has received the brunt of premium increases in Minnesota, but the proposed plan will provide 25 percent discounts for said Minnesotans.

Also in the bill, pushed by Republican leader Kurt Daudt (the Speaker of the Minnesota State House of Representatives), are other changes to the existing healthcare law. $15 million havebeen set aside for Minnesotans who suffer from certain conditions, to help them cope with the cost of care, should they lose their coverage over the next year.

A more controversial measure on health-maintenance organizations drew criticism from many Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) members of the Legislature. The new law allows health maintenance organizations to begin operating for profit in Minnesota. This allocation is a change for the state, which for many years did not allow such organizations to operate for profit. Republicans hope that the change may help to address the perceived lack of competition in the Minnesota market.

The law passed the Minnesota State Legislature with bipartisan support. The Minnesota State House voted 108-19 to pass the bill; the State Senate voted 47-19. The entirety of the Republican Caucus voted for the bill, while Democrats were divided. Although some DFL members had significant issues over some of the provisions in the legislation, many shelved their reservations and voted for the legislation. Dayton was among these Democrats, citing the importance of relief for Minnesotans with high premium increases.