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Republican candidates take aim at MNsure in wake of insurer's exit

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Republican candidates in Minnesota's two most prominent midterm election races lined up a new campaign target this week: MNsure.

Since PreferredOne's Tuesday announcement it was pulling out of the state run health exchange, Mike McFadden (challenging Sen. Al Franken) and Jeff Johnson (looking to oust Gov. Mark Dayton) have each issued multiple statements criticizing MNsure while also blaming their Democratic opponent for the PreferredOne news.

The decision by the Golden Valley-based insurer means anyone who signed up for a PreferredOne plan through MNsure last year – which was nearly 60 percent of all those who enrolled – is facing the prospect of signing up for a new plan, or potentially paying more for the same coverage.

McFadden labels Franken, MNsure a failure

Among the headlines for McFadden press releases since Sept. 16 are "McFadden: Franken’s Deciding Vote On Obamacare Catastrophic For Minnesotans"; "Franken Fails Minnesotans With Obamacare"; and "McFadden Calls On Franken To Answer For Minnesota’s Obamacare Failure."

McFadden's central argument is that Franken "cast the deciding vote" for the health care overhaul in the Senate (the Affordable Care Act passed that Senate by a 60-39 vote in 2010, the New York Times shows), and that the withdrawal of PreferredOne is another health care failure that puts thousands of Minnesotans in the position of having to find a new health plan.

"My heart goes out to Minnesotans who will lose their coverage or subsidies because of PreferredOne’s decision to stop offering insurance on MNsure in 2015,” McFadden said in a Sept. 16 statement. “We have a health care problem in this country, but this shows that Obamacare is not the right solution. Minnesotans continue to lose coverage and will likely face higher rates because of the failure of this program. Senator Franken built this program.”

In statements to the Pioneer Press and KEYC Wednesday, the Franken campaign said the senator was "working hard to make sure the Affordable Care Act works for the people of Minnesota," and will continue to do so.

An August poll had Franken holding a 9-point lead over McFadden.

Johnson says Dayton to blame for 'debacle'

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson issued a press release shortly after PreferredOne left the exchange, saying it was “yet another example of everyday, middle-class Minnesotans paying the price for Mark Dayton’s incompetence."

"Six out of 10 people who’ve purchased insurance through MNsure will now have to go through the nightmare process of purchasing another plan all over again—thanks to Mark Dayton," he said. "Nobody but Mark Dayton is to blame for this whole debacle. ... [H]e created MNsure and hand-picked its board and staff. This is all on him.”

Later in the week, Johnson suggested Dayton had a hand in setting PreferredOne's insurance rates – the lowest on the exchange – and asking the state legislative auditor to investigate.

On Thursday he cited Dayton's decision not to opt for an extension that would allow small businesses to keep expiring health plans (due to them not meeting newly enacted care standards) as especially harmful, saying it will cause a spike in insurance premiums, MPR reports.

A Dayton spokesperson told the radio station the increased cost is due to better coverage, such as hospitalizations and cancer tests.

Earlier this month, Dayton acknowledged the MNsure roll out didn't go as planned, calling it the "biggest disappointment" of his term. He also said it's gotten better though, and vowed to continue doing what he can to improve it.

A recent poll showed Dayton with a sizable lead over Johnson.

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