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They tried to arrange state help with insurance costs – but they only fought

Special session idea dies as the governor and House speaker do their fighting in front of the cameras

Ever since we learned in September that Minnesotans who buy their own health insurance are facing rate hikes of more than 50 percent, state policymakers have been talking about giving them a hand with those surging premiums.

But it won't happen this year.

A last-chance negotiating session between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt on Friday consisted of 15 minutes of bickering and ended with no agreement.

That was the death knell for a possible special session next week where lawmakers might have approved state rebates to help people with their insurance costs.

Taking their fight to the public

Besides helping with health insurance, Daudt and Dayton were talking about approving the tax cuts and state construction projects that didn't get finished in their regular session last spring.

But, just like last spring, it's been hard for them to agree on things. So they gave up on the other stuff and decided to have one last meeting Friday on the possible health insurance rebates. Only this time there was a twist: they turned their negotiating session into a public meeting, inviting news reporters to sit in on it.

You can watch the whole 15 minutes here. If you like seeing political leaders cast blame and take verbal swipes at each other, you should find it entertaining.

What does the lack of agreement mean?

About 95 percent of Minnesotans get their health insurance through their job or through a government program. A lot of the 5 percent who buy individual coverage can get federal subsidies to help them with the big 2017 rate hikes.

But that still leaves about 120,000 people who are buying their own insurance and don't qualify for the subsidies.

Those are the people hurt by the failure to agree on a special session. And nobody sounds happy about it.

After Friday's meeting broke up, Dayton called the lack of a special session "a shared failure" and said "It's bad for Minnesota, there's no doubt about it," the Associated Press reports.

But the new year will bring new hope.

The 2017 legislative session begins on Jan. 3. Daudt told reporters Friday the failure to agree on a special session is "a little setback" for Minnesotans and predicted that in the first week of the new session there will be an agreement to provide health insurance help.

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