The temperatures are warming up, and spring is right around the corner. Things continue to move quickly in St. Paul given our shorter-than-usual legislative schedule. Here are some news items from this past week:
MNsure deadline approaching
The IRS deadline to sign up for health insurance is March 31st. Payments must be received by MNsure or the carriers if you've selected a health plan through the insurance exchange. For a family of four, the penalty for not having health insurance is about $285. That will rise to $695 per person starting in 2016.
The penalty applies to any Minnesotan who has not yet signed up for health coverage, even if they've spent hours on the phone with the MNsure call center, had their application disappear due to technical errors, or found that new plans available through MNsure are not quite as affordable as first thought.
Republicans offered two amendments to the tax bill passed last week that would have shielded Minnesota families from the impacts of ObamaCare. The first would have given a tax credit to families who saw their health insurance costs rise under ObamaCare. Too many families are seeing higher costs thanks to the (Un)Affordable Care Act -- unfortunately Democrats voted against this measure.
The other amendment would have waived the penalty in 2014 for not signing up for health insurance. I've heard from countless Minnesotans about the struggles and frustrations with the MNsure website; lost applications, login errors, long waits to get help through the call center, and more. Democrats voted against this amendment as well, forcing Minnesotans to pay the full price of ObamaCare starting in 2014.
Medical Marijuana Debate
I had the chance to join Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse on the Up and At Em Show on Wednesday to debate the legalization of medical marijuana. This is a very sensitive issue, as there are many families with children and loved ones that have medical ailments that are helped by some of the pain-relieving ingredients found within the marijuana plant.
Law enforcement, and a number of legislators--myself included--are opposed to the medical marijuana bill in its current form. It would effectively allow patients to grow and cultivate their own plants, making it much easier for people seeking to use marijuana recreationally to buy or obtain it. I oppose any effort to make marijuana more easily available to the general public.
If you have some time, I encourage you to listen to the podcast, which you can find by clicking here. We actually found a great deal of common ground. I believe there's a compromise available that would allow those who need the pain relieving ingredients found within marijuana to obtain it legally by prescription in a form other than smoking without making marijuana more widely available to the general public and especially our children and young people.
Have a great weekend,