Campaign fight builds over health care costs

Problems with the individual health insurance market have taken center stage in the battle for control of the Minnesota Legislature.

Appearing together on MPR News on Monday, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen debated who was at fault and what can be done to address sharp increases in premiums. The jumps, up to 67 percent in some cases, have fueled campaign mailings and commercials as the election draws near.

Daudt said Democrats shouldn't be trusted to correct flaws related to the Affordable Care Act and the MNsure marketplace.

"They made big promises to Minnesotans. This was going to give you more choices, it was going to give you more access and it was going to reduce costs. Well right now, we're 0-for-3," he said.

Thissen brought up a DFL proposal to provide cost breaks to people with steep increases in their health premiums.

Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers are considering a special session on health care, but nothing has been firmed up. Dayton and Daudt are due to meet Tuesday morning as open enrollment for 2017 coverage begins.

Dayton has proposed 25 percent rebates for customers who aren't eligible for federal health care tax credits. Daudt said any legislative solution also needs to address the lack of insurance plan options for customers in some parts of the state.

Thissen said the benefits of the new federal health law are being overlooked amid the furor over fast-rising premiums. He said Democrats are committed to work to lower the cost of coverage for the individual market. But he said the law has paid off in several respects.

"There were also a lot of people that actually got coverage they never got before. Women don't have to pay more for health insurance than men, which is the case before the Affordable Care Act," Thissen said. "Clearly there are challenges. And I think what people are looking for is who is going to roll up their sleeves and actually fix the problem."

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