What's in Senate Republicans' health care cost plan – and why Democrats don't like it

It's the first major step to address a problem both parties have acknowledged.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Republicans are celebrating the first major step toward some type of relief for Minnesotans who are facing expensive health insurance – while Democrats say the proposal is off-target.

The Minnesota Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, approved a bill that would spend $285 million of Minnesota's backup rainy day fund to provide rebates for certain health insurance consumers. It passed 35-31, with one Democrat voting for it.

Who does this affect? The 125,000 or so Minnesotans who bought health insurance through the individual market (so through MNsure, or directly from an insurance company for example) but make too much money to qualify for tax credits that significantly bring down the cost.

The Senate Republicans' plan would initially cover 25 percent of the costs for people who make more than 300 percent, but less than 800 percent, of the federal poverty line. But starting April 1, people who make on the low end of that could get up to 30 percent, while people who make on the high end could get just 20 percent. (See pages 3-4 here.)

It also provides $15 million in funding so extremely ill patients will be able to continue their care no matter what, and some other changes to the state's insurance market (including a reinsurance program to help insurers with costly consumers, plus changes to how HMO plans can operate here).

Democrats' response

Democrats quickly responded by questioning how well the bill was scrutinized, and pointing to comments from the state's budget office about how unwieldy it may end up being.

Sen. Greg Clausen called it "an unvetted mix of paperwork and delay."

In addition, Democrats are pointing to comments from the state's top budget chief, Myron Frans – he said this week the bill that was passed is too complicated, could cost the state another $20 million to implement the requirements, and might take a year to put into place, MPR News reported.

What that means is the Minnesotans eligible for a rebate might not see it until 2018, for health insurance they bought and paid for in 2017.

There's also a looming MNsure deadline. You have to buy coverage by Jan. 31 if you want health insurance to kick in this year.

In an email statement, Sen. Jeff Hayden called the bill "a mess," adding: "we do not have proper accounting of the spending, the reinsurance pool only has funding for one year, and the additional red tape and bureaucracy will create more problems than it will resolve.”

So is this going to become law?

In order for a bill to become law, identical versions have to pass the House and Senate – and then the governor has to sign it.

This bill passed the Senate, but hasn't gone to the House. A vote in the House is expected next week, but that version of the bill is a little different from the one the Senate passed.

That means there would have to be what's called a conference committee – that's when a handful of lawmakers from each chamber get together to hash out the differences in two bills.

Then there's Gov. Mark Dayton, who has expressed concerns about the Republicans' plan in the past. The bill that comes out of the conference committee would have to also appease his DFL sensibilities.

If he vetoes it, the House and Senate could override him only by getting two-thirds of their members to vote in favor of it. And while the Republicans have an advantage in both chambers, it's not enough to guarantee two-thirds support.

Next Up

Gary Kubiak

Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak announces retirement

Kubiak wraps up a career that has spanned nearly four decades.

alphaMPD

Minneapolis police seeks public help finding missing woman

A 63-year-old woman has been missing since Tuesday

coronavirus testing

Don't want to talk to a contact tracer? MN debuts online option after positive test

The department says the survey will allow its staff to keep track of more cases at a faster pace

Family Dollar

Money Gal Coaching: 12 things you are wasting your money on

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

police lights

Three teens charged in Minneapolis robberies

The incidents took place on Saturday in Minneapolis.

covid-19, coronavirus, ppe

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, January 21

It's the first time in exactly four months that Minnesota has had fewer than 100 COVID patients in intensive care.

icy roads, bad roads

Girl, 16, killed in crash with semi on icy Minnesota road

The crash happened in Dodge County around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

police lights

Road rage incident sees driver punch out man's window, punch him in face

The incident happened in Waite Park Wednesday morning.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 7.01.24 AM

Minneapolis will recover $100K in costs connected to 2019 Trump rally

The Target Center operator said it'll pay the costs over three years.

Jacob Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirms run for reelection

He has faced criticism over the city's response to George Floyd's death.

Related

Update: Help with health insurance costs is on the way

Not in the agreement? A proposal that would have let health insurance that doesn't meet Affordable Care Act requirements be sold in the state.

The Republican health care plan vote is dead – so what happens next?

Republican support for the new health care overhaul wasn't strong enough to get it passed.

What the Senate's 51-50 health care vote actually means

Here's what happened Tuesday, and what to watch for next.

22 million more uninsured under Senate's health care overhaul, estimate says

That figure is slightly lower than what's projected for the House version of the health care bill.

Bill that would limit state money for abortions OK'd by Minnesota Senate

Another bill adding new license requirements for abortion clinics was also approved.

Politics in 2017: Trump and Dayton argue health care over Twitter

The president-elect and the governor of Minnesota, trading barbs on Twitter.

Comparing the tax cut plans from Republican lawmakers and Gov. Dayton

GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate have offered up big tax cuts. The governor's tax cut plan isn't as large.