Deal in Congress would save MinnesotaCare funding, for now

A bipartisan agreement was struck Tuesday.
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Funding for MinnesotaCare would be protected for at least the next two years under a bipartisan deal agreed by a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

The Alexander-Murray deal passed by the Senate health committee would restore the cost-sharing reductions (CSR) for the next two years, after President Trump signed an order ending them last week, CNN reports.

CSRs are payments by the federal government to insurance companies to lower the cost of health plans. In Minnesota, the state-run MinnesotaCare program, which provides coverage for low-income residents, receives more than $100 million of its funding every year from CSRs.

But an even more crucial point of the bipartisan deal signed on Tuesday is that it protects other federal healthcare subsidies, which when combined represents a total $742 million of funding MinnesotaCare was due to receive over the next four years, the Star Tribune reports.

Included in the deal, at the behest of Senate Republicans, is a clause making it easier for states to get waivers allowing them to modify the Affordable Care Act to their own needs without sacrificing federal healthcare funding.

Minnesota has passed a $549 million reinsurance program for 2018, with the state subsidizing the cost of citizens with the highest healthcare bills in order to keep overall premiums down for those buying insurance from the individual market.

But the government dealt the state an unexpected blow when it told Governor Mark Dayton and state legislators that implementing the reinsurance program would mean sacrificing its funding for MinnesotaCare.

If the Alexander-Murray deal is approved, the state would be allowed to push ahead with reinsurance plan while continuing to get its funding for MinnesotaCare – for the next two years at least.

But will Trump go for it?

President Trump signaled on Tuesday that he was pleased to see Senate Democrats working with Republicans to address healthcare, though the Associated Press reports that he's not in favor of the Alexander-Murray deal as it stands now.

Despite saying during a Rose Garden press conference that the deal represents a "short-term solution so that we don't have this very dangerous little period," White House sources later clarified that he opposes the plan as it stands now.

They want more from Democrats in addition to the added flexibility for states to get healthcare waivers.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is on the Senate health committee and in a statement on Tuesday he described Alexander-Murray (named after GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray) as a "very promising" bill.

"Unfortunately, in an attempt to implode our nation’s health care market, the White House blindsided states like Minnesota with policy decisions that will jeopardize coverage for people and send insurance costs through the roof," he said. "Now more than ever, we need a bipartisan effort to avert the crisis that’s being manufactured by the Trump Administration."

"That’s why, as this deal was negotiated, I fought to reverse massive financial cuts that the Trump Administration levied on MinnesotaCare, a program that helps working families in our state."

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