Where do the Minnesota governor candidates stand on healthcare?

It's arguably the most important issue facing voters in November.
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Walz and Johnson

The mid-term elections are just over two weeks away and the state's candidates are making their final pitches to voters.

The race with the most at stake in Minnesota is the one for governor, with DFLer Tim Walz and GOPer Jeff Johnson fighting it out.

Arguably one of the biggest issues among voters this November is healthcare, at a time when the cost of insurance has stabilized in Minnesota, but there is increasing concern at the national level over potential rollbacks protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, and possible cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Ahead of Nov. 6, here's a look at where the two major candidates stand on healthcare.

Jeff Johnson – Republican Party

Johnson's first order of business would be to abolish the MNSure health exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, which gives people not covered by employer health insurance the ability to buy their own insurance plan.

He would then have Minnesota join the federal health exchange, Healthcare.gov, as well as allowing insurance companies to sell plans across state lines to improve choice and reduce costs.

The Pioneer Press notes he wants to bring in laws encouraging more employers to self-insure, and allow cooperatives – such as farmers – to pool together to negotiate better rates.

He would also back insurance companies to offer different health insurance products, such as cheaper "skinny" health plans for healthy people that doesn't provide comprehensive coverage, though this has been criticized for potentially increasing premiums for those on comprehensive plans. 

Johnson backs ending the provider tax on companies providing health services and products on schedule in 2019, and says he would save the state money by cutting down on waste and fraud in state-subsidized healthcare programs.

He also says he guarantees people with pre-existing medical conditions would not be denied coverage.

Instead they would be protected by a return to the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Act, creating a high-risk pool for those with more complex and expensive medical needs.

A WCCO fact check found that Johnson's plan could see premiums drop for healthy people, but rise up to 25 percent for sick people.

This in turn has the potential for as many as 300,000 Minnesotans to drop their health coverage, albeit that's at the high-end of estimates.

The same fact check claims that Johnson's plan would still allow insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, but Johnson has said this is a "blatant lie."

Tim Walz – DFL Party

Walz believes that, eventually, a single-payer healthcare system will be enacted nationally, though admits we're not there yet.

In the meantime, his main plan to provide more affordable options to Minnesotans is by expanding access to MinnesotaCare, which is Minnesota's government-sponsored health program for the working poor.

Walz's plan would effectively allow all Minnesotans to "buy-in" to MinnesotaCare, offering a cheaper option to private health insurance plans.

He would help pay for this by keeping Minnesota's provider tax beyond its scheduled 2019 end.

Walz, who also guarantees pre-existing conditions be covered under any of his plans – has pledged to continue supporting women's health programs, including Planned Parenthood, if elected.

The MinnesotaCare-for-all plan has been previously mooted by current Gov. Mark Dayton, who according to the Star Tribune claimed it could benefit 100,000 Minnesotans, many of them farmers, by offering a cheaper healthcare option to the individual market.

Another supporting argument is that MinnesotaCare-for-all would provide more choice in rural counties where only one health insurer offers plans, and would also encourage private insurers to offer more competitive rates to Minnesotans.

It has faced opposition from Johnson and Republican lawmakers, who say it could increase premiums for privately-insured Minnesotans, as insurers up their rates to compensate for the loss of business as more people choose MinnesotaCare.

It was also criticized by state hospitals and doctors, who face being paid lower rates for providing care than they would get from private insurance companies.

This in turn could make it harder for rural clinics and hospitals to stay afloat. The Minnesota Hospitals Association is among the organizations that opposes the buy-in.

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