Senate GOP committee plan highlights health care

Senate Majority Leader-designate Paul Gazelka and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer announced the new committee structure for the GOP Senate. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Minnesota Senate Republicans are promising changes in state health care policy next session, and their new committee structure reflects that priority.

Senate Majority Leader-designate Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Tuesday that the reorganization for 2017 includes three panels that will deal with health care costs, access and reform issues.

Just two weeks after the election, Gazelka said he believes health care is the reason Republicans are now in charge of the Senate.

“That was the number one concern that people brought up,” Gazelka said.

Gazelka said he expects the work on state changes, including the state insurance exchange MNsure, will be done at the same time the GOP-controlled Congress begins dismantling the federal Affordable Care Act.

“There’s a number of things we can do right away,” he said. “For example, we know that the high-risk pool has to be broadened in some form. That’s part of what is causing the rates to be so high in MNsure. So, that really doesn’t matter if they dismantle it or not. We have to work on that.”

Under the new Senate committee structure, Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, will chair the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, will chair the Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, will chair the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.

Gazelka said he hopes to “bend the spending curve” in human services, which is one of the biggest pieces of the state budget.

There are 22 returning Republican Senators, and each will chair a committee. There are three fewer committees than when Democrats were in charge.

Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, will chair a newly combined committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections.

Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state, said she’s interested in looking at “all kinds of ideas” for improving the election system, including voter ID. Despite voters’ rejection of a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2012, Kiffmeyer contends that Minnesotans “largely” support such a requirement.

“There were people that didn’t like the idea of changing the constitution, or there was some confusion interjected into the discussion,” Kiffmeyer said.

Still, Kiffmeyer said she plans to initially focus on basics like election management “before stepping out a little further.”

Here's the full Senate committee list:

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