Dayton open to session on health law but has doubts

Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday he wouldn't rule out a post-election special legislative session to address huge cost spikes looming for people who buy health insurance on the individual market.

Amid growing Republican calls for fixes, Dayton said he's listening to suggestions but has doubts lawmakers could agree on a proposal ahead of the next regular session in January.

People who buy insurance on the individual market will see premium increases of 50 to 67 percent for 2017 plans. Dayton, a Democrat, said on Wednesday that the new federal health law "is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people," a comment that immediately made its way into campaign messages of Republicans.

"We're looking to see is there anything we could do in a special session that would provide immediate assistance to people who are burdened by these cost increases for next year that would warrant a special session," Dayton said. "If it's too late -- I'm not saying it is, we're looking to assess that -- then it would be all the more reason to wait until next year."

Dayton says he wouldn't call a session before November's election. He warned that some solutions raised so far would come at huge expense, and he pointed to failed special session talks over a tax plan and construction borrowing proposal as reasons for pessimism.

"I'm wary based on the recent experience of the political pitfalls even when there should be and seems to be strong consensus about what needs to be done," Dayton said.

A pair of Republican lawmakers pressed Thursday for Dayton to summon lawmakers to the Capitol the day after the election. Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, and Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-  Mountain Lake, said lawmakers need to act fast to reverse the "perilous situation facing Minnesota's health insurance market."

“Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans are facing impossible health insurance cost increases. They will be restricted to very few doctors and clinics," Hamilton said. "We can’t leave them out to dry."

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