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Minnesota Legislature

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

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Legislative update

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day from a wintry Capitol in St. Paul. I hope you are enjoying February's record-setting snowfall as much as I am. :-)

Dear Neighbor,

Before we get to some of the issues we’d all rather be talking about, I want to express my extreme disappointment for U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent anti-Semitic comments. This behavior is unbecoming of the office she holds and is an embarrassment to Minnesota. I’m not into making grand demands for consequences to be levied. I just ask her to do better and, rather than point fingers, take care of her own lawn.

One of the notable developments back here in Minnesota this week was a hearing for a bill that would extend for three years a reinsurance program House Republicans led to passage in the last biennium. This program successfully lower premiums on the individual markets two years in a row and made our state a national leader in this area. In fact, a researcher from Georgetown indicated she had “yet to see a state report across-the-board decreases as Minnesota has.”

What makes this year’s legislation particularly interesting is that the new House Democrat majority has authored this extension (with 11 Republican co-sponsors) after absolutely savaging this program when Republicans created it. Democrats said reinsurance was “borne straight from the insurance industry,” and called it a giveaway to insurance companies.

In 2017, just one House Democrat voted for the reinsurance bill, and former Gov. Mark Dayton allowed it to become law without his signature. You can find a video compilation with just a sampling of Democrats' criticisms of reinsurance here. It’s an interesting video and let’s just say the criticisms that are offered did not age well.

While Democrats played politics with this issue in the last election, they now seem to accept that reinsurance works. It is quite telling that, rather than holding hearings on single-payer or the MinnesotaCare buy-in a number of Democrats favor, they are instead moving forward with a bill to extend reinsurance.

Minnesota Sen. Mike Goggin of Red Wing has taken a closer look at what single-payer/MinnesotaCare buy-in would mean and posted an article with some very good information on the subject. The italicized text below is what Sen. Goggins said, verbatim, in his piece:

  • First, it’s very, very expensive. About $35 billion, in fact. To put that in perspective, our $48 billion biennial state budget would have to double over night just to cover the cost. What do you think that would do to your tax bill?!
  • Almost 40% of hospitals are already losing money. If a tsunami of people suddenly move off private insurance and on to public plans, which have lower payment rates, hospitals will not be able to survive. It’s why the Minnesota Hospitals Association opposes MinnesotaCare buy-in.
  • Vermont and California – hardly states that anyone would describe as small government bastions – abandoned their single payer experiments because they were too expensive. In Vermont, they discovered it would have almost doubled the annual state budget from $5m to over $9m. In California, the price tag was $400 billion annually.

On a final note, Sen. Goggins also addressed the fact Democrats have accused Republicans of wanting to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. As Goggins says, “It is an absolute shameful lie, and anyone who repeats it is not interested in a serious discussion.”

Republicans do support coverage for preexisting conditions and want to do so by bringing back a new and improved version of the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Assessment program, which covered pre-existing conditions before it was lost due to the implementation of Obamacare.

Look for more news from the Capitol soon, including any developments as bills to further reduce Social Security taxes move through the process. We made progress in reducing Social Security taxes in 2017 and nearly 284,000 senior citizens received tax reductions. Approximately 72,000 of our seniors no longer pay any state income tax on their social security. That is a good start and I hope we can take another step – or, preferably eliminate the Social Security tax altogether – this year to help our seniors.

Regards,

Joe

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