Governor Mark Dayton, with the support of Minnesota DFLers, is proposing an expansion of MinnesotaCare to give people another option when buying health insurance.
He's proposed allowing Minnesotans to "buy in" to the health program irrespective of their household income, which could particularly help those who buy their health insurance from the individual market.
Dayton says that with some health insurers leaving the individual marketplace in certain parts of Greater Minnesota, thus reducing choice for consumers, a public option would give rural Minnesotans more choice, as well as a chance to keep their doctor and local care providers.
It follows a spike in the number of uninsured Minnesotans in 2017, when 349,000 didn't have any health coverage, following a decline in employer-offered plans and a decline in individual marketplace sign-ups, amid rising premiums.
How would the buy-in work?
There would be no subsidies on offer for anyone "buying in" to MinnesotaCare under Dayton's proposal, though you'd be able to claim federal tax credits like you can on plans boought through the individual marketplace and MNSure.
Effectively it would be the state's own version of a private health plan, providing another option alongside commercial insurance plans.
It would be completely funded by enrollee premiums, which would cost on average $469 per month in 2018 (which can be reduced by tax credits, as mentioned before).
DFL state Sen. Tony Lourey said the MinnesotaCare expansion would particularly help farmers, small business owners and entrepreneurs.
It has the support of Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish, who said some farmers are having to pay more than $40,000 out-of-pocket before getting help from their health insurer.
"People say that you shouldn't have government competing with the private sector. Well competition's good for everybody," Dayton said on Thursday, MPR reports. "It may not be what the providers like because nobody wants new competition, but it gives the consumers choice."
"The dividing line is very clear for legislators: do you side with the insurance companies or do you side with the people of Minnesota?" he added.
Despite saying it was cost neutral though, MPR reports Republicans fear it could end up costing the taxpayer further down the road.
How does MinnesotaCare work now?
MinnesotaCare is Minnesota's version of federal Basic Health Programs set up through the Affordable Care Act.
It is designed to subsidize the costs of health insurance for people whose incomes are low, but not low enough to qualify for full coverage through Medicaid.
It currently covers around 100,000 Minnesotans, who pay lower premiums in exchange for health coverage, as well as one-off payments for visits and treatments through cost-sharing.