ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota House passed an emergency aid package Thursday evening for more than 100,000 Minnesotans who’ve been hit by huge spikes in their monthly health care premiums. The measure now heads to committee, where differences between the House and Senate versions will be reconciled.

State lawmakers are rushing to get a plan in place before the open enrollment period ends on Jan. 31.

More than 125,000 Minnesotans are facing monthly premium rate hikes up to 68 percent. Those people aren’t rich, but they make too much money to qualify for tax subsidies that could help lower their monthly premiums. Now, they’re running out of time.

State lawmakers all agree they want to deliver 25 percent rebates to families hit hard by the rate hikes, but they can’t agree on how to help. Republicans are now trying to include health care reforms to a system they never liked.

“There is language in here that will help people get to a doctor closer, and help people continue what could potentially be a life-saving cancer treatment, or other treatment,” Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt said.

The House bill provides 25 percent monthly premium rebates administered by the state based on income. The more you make, the less of a rebate you get. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton says that income testing is too time-consuming. He wants the insurance companies to simply deduct 25 percent from the consumers’ bills.

At a news conference Wednesday, Democratic leaders said Republicans are playing politics with people.

“They won the election. They have the House. They have the Senate. This was a hot topic in the election,” Democratic House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said. “So take your win, and feel good about that, but now let’s do relief and not hold these families up.”

One of those families is Sheri Sexton’s. She’s a dairy farmer in Millville, and saw her premiums rise $600 a month. She says she’s had enough of Republicans and Democrats.

“It makes everybody disgusted,” she said. “Beyond that point, you know, what else can you do?”

There has been a surprising amount of animosity over the measure when most lawmakers agree something needs to be done. A final agreement will likely emerge at the end of next week, at the earliest.

Pat Kessler

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