ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he wouldn’t veto a $542 million Republican plan intended to lower health insurance costs for Minnesota residents.
The bill will create a reinsurance program to help insurance companies cover expensive medical claims. Under the plan, companies will have half of individuals’ claims that cost between $50,000 and $250,000 subsidized.
Dayton cited several concerns he has with the bill, but said he would let it become law without his signature because of an urgent need to keep Minnesota residents applying in the individual market and keep insurance companies from pulling out of the exchange — like Blue Cross Blue Shield did in June.
The governor pushed unsuccessfully for a public option — called MinnesotaCare — to be included in the reinsurance bill. Expanding the state-run plan is part of Dayton’s push to lower health care costs in the state.
Dayton also disagreed with the GOP plan to fund the subsidy through the state’s general fund and a special health account. That money is used for a variety of different initiatives, such as early childhood education and health care for poor Minnesotans that he said will suffer from reduced funds.
Dayton wanted the bill funded by a tax on the insurance industry. He had asked providers to guarantee that in exchange for the reinsurance program, they would guarantee to stay in the individual market and to offer affordable premiums.
“My regard for the insurance companies has been decimated by their lack of even the decency to respond to my letter in writing,” he said. “They get the bailout and they keep competition away.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature said insurance companies need the cash infusion to stabilize the market. They said their plan to pay for reinsurance with general funds and a health care account were the best way to spread out the costs evenly.
In debate over the bill, Republicans pointed to a number of health experts, state officials and even Dayton himself who said there was a need for reinsurance in the state.
Still, some Republicans acknowledge it’s not certain to lower costs. But the party said it’s the next step after the state approved a one-time $300 million relief package earlier in the session.
Democrats fought hard against the bill but didn’t have the votes to stop it.
They characterized the plan as a bailout for insurance companies and embraced Dayton’s push to expand MinnesotaCare.
Insurance companies will be required to report how much Minnesota residents save from the bill, but Democrats worry those numbers could be spun to show savings that aren’t there.
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