Monday is the deadline for Minnesotans to obtain health insurance before facing fines. The current penalty for a family of four is at least $285 for failure to sign up. The penalty will increase to $695 per person in 2016.
Low enrollment numbers have been a problem for MNsure ever since the program was launched in October. When Democrats passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed MNsure into law, they said 270,000 Minnesotans would sign up in the commercial market in 2014 and that eventually 1.3 million Minnesotans would enroll. Current enrollment for commercial plans is 36,176 which is 87 percent below projections.
There have been a whole host of problems with MNsure and long-term sustainability is in serious question unless enrollment surges. It will be interesting to see what happens at the deadline. An investigation underway by the state auditor's office also should shed new light on the program.
One side note I would like to address is how more and more entities are moving toward online systems, yet we still have spotty access in various parts of the state. There is a big push in the Legislature to expand broadband Internet signals to boost our Web capabilities. This impacts everything from filing taxes to applying for jobs and – yes – enrolling in MNsure.
Please let me know if unreliable Internet access has hindered you in trying to adapt with the movement toward online services. This information would be helpful to me as we consider proposals in the House.
We recently passed in the House a bill to repeal some of the excessive taxes enacted last year. One thing that flew a bit under the radar pertains to eliminating a new tax on equipment repair. It is good we got that tax off the books, but the House majority did not make it retroactive as I had hoped. That means farmers who encountered costly repairs last year are still subject to the tax, even if they held onto receipts in the hopes they could be reimbursed.
Enough funding remains from the $1.23 billion projected tax surplus that we could have done the right thing by helping our farmers. Especially since new reports indicate farm income fell by 78 percent last year. That makes the repair tax even more burdensome.
A second tax bill is percolating in the House. Time will tell how it shakes out, but I favor focusing on reducing property taxes. I’ll keep you posted.