Health insurance premiums are going to be expensive for some Minnesotans at the start of the new year, which has lawmakers looking for a quick fix.
State Senate Democrats asked Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday to call a special legislative session to pass a supplemental tax credit for Minnesotans who buy individual coverage through MNsure, but don't qualify for federal tax credits from the Affordable Care Act.
This follows the Minnesota Department of Commerce announcing last month that the cost of individual health insurance will go up by 50-67 percent in 2017. That prompted Gov. Dayton to say last week that the Obama Administration's landmark Affordable Care Act is "no longer affordable," and call for state and federal governments to work together to find a solution.
"While we acknowledge that these hikes only affect 5 percent of Minnesotans – some of these people are being forced to pay disproportionately high rates that they simply can't afford," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Thursday. "A special session gives us the opportunity to offer them some short-term relief, and then work together with Republicans for long-term solutions during the regular session."
Bakk estimates the tax credit will cost about $100 million, MPR News reports, but he's not concerned about how to pay for it, noting there's money because lawmakers failed to pass a tax bill last session.
Last week, House DFLers suggested a plan to help those facing premium increases they can't afford, and House DFL Leader Paul Thissen said in an email statement Thursday that "immediate relief" for these Minnesotans is "critical."
Dayton has also said he wants to find a fix, but said this week he wouldn't be calling a special session before the Nov. 8 election.
Republicans call it a 'political stunt'
MNsure has been a hot topic for Republican candidates in this election, with House GOP members suggesting a fix that includes getting rid of the state's health insurance exchange and switching to the federal one.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, told FOX News health insurance premiums are so expensive that Minnesotans are dropping coverage altogether and just paying the fine instead.
Daudt, according to MPR News, says Republicans are "open to any and all ideas" to help reduce health care costs, but they blame Democrats for creating the problem, the network says.
In a statement Thursday, Republican Senate Leader David Hann called the Democrats' request for a special session "A political stunt 19 days before an election by a Democrat majority desperate to maintain control."
Hann added: "For three years they’ve done nothing to fix the serious problems Minnesotans have been facing, they’ve blamed insurance companies for following the very laws they imposed, and now they’re proposing Band-Aid solutions that won’t create long term stability and lower costs.”