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Rep. Dean’s bid to end MNsure is back, but in new form

Republican Rep. Matt Dean of Dellwood discusses his newest plan to end MNsure. Brian Bakst | MPR News

Posted 11:06 a.m. | Updated 11:37 a.m.

A longtime critic of the MNsure health insurance exchange has a new plan to scrap it while shifting more responsibilities to Minnesota counties.

House Health and Human Services Finance Chair Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, is trying again to dismantle the state-run health insurance purchase portal. It's used by people buying private plans and by those seeking to enroll in public health care programs.

Dean, a Republican candidate for governor, has made the health care issue the central piece of his campaign, although one of his rivals has also criticized Dean's resolve.

Dean's new plan would seek federal permission to let insurance buyers go through private agents while still qualifying for premium subsidies. For public program enrollees, county administrators would have more power around eligibility decisions and signups.

"It doesn't eliminate any benefit. It doesn't eliminate any of the responsibilities we have currently," Dean said. "It just changes the governance structure and who does what."

He released the plan on the opening day of 2018 insurance enrollment through MNsure. The exchange was created as part of Minnesota's enactment of the federal Affordable Care Act. The system was built with $155 million from the federal government and has required other public investment since its 2013 launch.

MNsure officials touted progress Wednesday, noting that more than 10,000 Minnesotans had begun their insurance shopping in the first two hours and had almost no wait times when they called for help. Enrollment for new coverage runs through Jan. 14.

Dean's proposal would require development of a new computer system. He said he would reroute unspent dollars from other health IT accounts to the venture. But he warned the transition he envisions wouldn't be overnight, with aspects of it not ready until 2020.

The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota pounced on Dean's bill as nothing but a "stunt."

“His proposal does nothing to lower costs, protect people with pre-existing conditions, or keep Minnesotans covered by the expansion of Medicare,” alliance executive director Joe Davis said in a statement.

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