Dayton calls for review of MNsure; House panel votes to drop it

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Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he wants a top-to-bottom review of MNsure, the statewide health care insurance exchange, and would be open to a variety of solutions to make it work better – up to and including scrapping it.

In a letter to legislative leaders Monday, Dayton acknowledged that MNsure's rocky performance the past two years has "created serious problems for many consumers," MPR News reports.

“Although we have seen significant improvements, there are still important unresolved issues," he said.

Those issues were spelled out in a scathing audit of MNsure which was released last month. The report from the state’s legislative auditor said the failures of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange outweighed its achievements, and called for sweeping changes to the way it’s managed.

Through MNsure, consumers and some small businesses can purchase health insurance from private companies or arrange for government health insurance such as Medicaid and MinnesotaCare, usually at lower cost than shopping for coverage on their own.

More than 370,000 people have signed up for insurance through the online system, but many of them endured long waits, technical glitches and confusing advice from customer service representatives.

Gov. Dayton said in his letter that his supplemental budget plan includes $500,000 for a new task force to study MNsure's current operations and recommend improvements.

He said he's open to any and all options, including dropping MNsure altogether and moving to the federal health care exchange.

Dayton would give the task force until the end of the year to complete its work, and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt responded by saying that's too long to wait, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Daudt wants lawmakers to take action in the current session.

House panel votes to scrap MNsure

That's just what one House committee did Monday evening, when it voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate MNsure and have Minnesotans use the federal health care exchange, the Associated Press reports.

The panel voted after hearing emotional testimony from residents on both sides of the issue.

The vote was along party lines, with all committee Republicans in favor and all DFLers opposed.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who also proposed eliminating MinnesotaCare, the state-funded health insurance program for the working poor, and instead have those clients buy insurance from private vendors through MNsure.

MPR News reports Dean proposes moving the 95,000 people who are in MinnesotaCare to MNsure, to save about $900 million over two years. That money would then be directed to other programs that are higher priorities for Republicans.

Dean's proposals may get a friendlier reception in the House, which is controlled by Republicans, rather than the Senate which is controlled by DFLers.

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