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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Greetings and the latest from St. Paul

Friday, February 27, 2015

Greetings,

Busy times continue at the Capitol, where an updated economic forecast, a MNsure report and more made recent headlines.

Minnesota Management & Budget issued a new state economic forecast today and it calls for a $1.9 billion surplus, up around $850 million from November. This news provides an official set of numbers for establishing a new two-year state budget this session. There will be many opinions as to how this surplus revenue should be used, but the bottom line is it is not "free" money. It came from taxpayers who were overcharged. Look for more on this subject in the days and weeks to come.

MNsure's first year in existence was a rocky one with low enrollment, rising prices, insurance companies pulling out of the program, the departure of the department head, data breeches and more. Around $200 million in taxpayer money already has been spent on MNsure. An additional $85 million was spent to fix the program's website, with the majority of that project being paid for by federal funds.

A nonpartisan review we received last week from the Legislative Auditor's office summed it up by saying the program's failures outweighed its achievements.

One of the biggest sustainability problems is that public enrollments vastly outnumber private enrollments. Those private enrollments are what MNsure is relying on to be sustainable and yet, the report indicates:

  • 72 percent of MNsure enrollees surveyed said they already had insurance.

  • MNsure commercial enrollments have missed projections by 88% (49,000 actual enrollments vs. 413,000 promised in the 2013 Fiscal Note).

  • 58 percent of those surveyed spent at least four hours on the enrollment process.

  • Among people surveyed who enrolled through MNsure in a qualified health plan, 75 percent reported having “significant” technical problems with the website. 

Gov. Mark Dayton's new budget proposal includes even more spending to keep MNsure afloat, but we need to get to the root of these issues instead of just spending more taxpayer dollars. Legislation introduced in the House would provide more accountability, easier access and affordability. I will keep you posted as we make progress in the Health and Human Services Committee I serve.

In addition to monitoring those issues, I have been working to advance some bills I have authored in the House. One helps educate mothers of the dangers Fetal Alcohol Syndrome poses and another helps provide better coordination among clinics in delivering care and services to the elderly, impoverished, disabled and others.

I also introduced a bill which would repeal Minnesota's punitive estate tax. Click here for a brief video of me using some poetic license while presenting that estate tax legislation to a House committee.

Regards,

Joe

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