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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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Minnesotans, House Democrats Call for MinnesotaCare Buy-In Option Ahead of HF 5 Debate

Monday, March 13, 2017

SAINT PAUL – Today, House Democrats joined Minnesotans to compare the MinnesotaCare buy-in option with the reinsurance proposed in HF 5.

Kelly Martinson grew up in rural Minnesota, and now lives in St. Paul with her husband and four children. In 2006, their premiums were roughly $350 per month with a $5,000 deductible. Over the last 10 years, they have watched their insurance costs more than quadruple to nearly $1,900 a month or $23,000 per year. Their son, Espen, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 9 ½, and as a result needs daily medication –medication insurance companies could deny before the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since the ACA’s passage, their insurance company has been required to cover this medicine, which without insurance would cost $70,000 per year. The Martinsons are horrified that if the ACA is repealed they will be faced with bankruptcy. They make $100,000-120,000 per year yet still live paycheck to paycheck, facing $30,000 in yearly health insurance costs.

“We are in a cycle of simply trying to stay afloat,” said Martinson. “After being in the trenches for the last decade constantly fighting our health insurance company to cover what our policy should cover, it is clear to me that they do not have the best interests of the people of Minnesota at heart. A MinnesotaCare buy-in option will provide all Minnesota families a secure place to land when all other options become truly impossible, which I fear they will.”

Kathy Rehfeldt lives in Millville with her husband and both are in their early 60’s. She retired from a software company several years ago, spent some time working for the American Cancer Society, and is now retired. In 2010, Kathy was diagnosed with early breast cancer. She was treated and has been cancer free for the past 6 years. This year, Kathy and her husband are facing skyrocketing premiums, adding up to annual healthcare costs of nearly $37,000 for poor coverage. With uncertainty at the federal level on healthcare, she’s concerned about being able to get quality health coverage for reasonable prices.

“When I hear about the reinsurance plan being considered today, which gives hundreds of millions of public dollars to insurance companies, it doesn’t sit well with me,” said Rehfeldt. “The insurance companies won’t say how much this money will improve premiums, or if it will mean lower deductibles. We’re just supposed to hand over the money and trust them. Well I don’t. I urge legislators to not only strengthen the level of accountability for any reinsurance plan, but also consider giving people like my husband and I the option to buy into MinnesotaCare.”

Andrea Sorum is a musician, part time church choir director, and single mom of two young boys who lives in Minneapolis. She is on MinnesotaCare and her boys are on M/A. She is concerned about the ongoing funding and viability of MinnesotaCare, and access to affordable health care for her family, so she doesn’t want to see hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars going to the insurance companies.

"Expanding MinnesotaCare to every Minnesotan would grant more entrepreneurs and artists like myself the opportunity to contribute to and grow our vibrant small business and artist community," said Sorum. "It is the wrong decision to help only the health insurance companies. If we really want to be a compelling destination for investors, travelers and families, we must support those who make Minnesota unique and bring connection and life to our communities."

Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato) has authored a bill to provide a MinnesotaCare buy-in option. He requested a hearing on January 13, but Republicans have not given the bill a hearing. He is hopeful that the MinnesotaCare buy-in option can still be a part of a healthcare solution this session.

"MinnesotaCare is a proven option to deliver more accessible and affordable care to more Minnesotans," said Rep. Johnson. "It should absolutely be part of the conversation about how to improve health care in our state, for everybody."

Since 1992, MinesotaCare has offered high-quality, lower-cost health coverage for over 100,000 Minnesotans. The premiums paid by those who buy in cover their policy costs, and there are no ongoing costs to taxpayers. MinnesotaCare includes a wide network of doctors and care providers across the state, which if offered broadly could improve healthcare access for Minnesotans, with an estimated monthly savings of $272-485 for a family of four.

HF 5 would use $384 million in ongoing taxpayer funding to subsidize insurance providers with no guarantee that the reinsurance program created would reduce healthcare costs or improve access for Minnesotans.

“The Republicans' reinsurance plan is incredibly expensive and makes no commitment to affordable premiums, stronger provider networks or more coverage options,” said Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL—St. Paul). “It's time to come together around solutions that will work for Minnesotans. We will continue fighting for affordable care that is available across Minnesota. Reinsurance does not meet that goal."