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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tama Theis (R)

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Capitol Update

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Session is now in full swing at the Capitol. As your state representative, I want to let you know about important issues happening in St. Paul. Here are some highlights from this week.

MNsure Continues to Disappoint

March 31st is the deadline to have insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After that, the IRS will charge a penalty to the uninsured. This is extremely concerning as I am still hearing from constituents struggling to get insured through the massive, ineffective bureaucracy that is MNsure.

Hours long call waiting, crashing websites, duplicative applications and a lack of communication between MNsure, the Department of Human Services and private insurers means many Minnesotans are left in limbo and unsure of their status in the system. Things are improving since its initial launch last year, but not fast enough.

And for those fortunate enough to have made it through the MNsure process, they are faced with higher costs, larger deductibles or both.

Before the ACA, Minnesota was a top ranked state for healthcare quality and coverage. In 2011, 91 percent of Minnesotans were insured, and of the nine percent uninsured—over three-fourths had potential access to coverage through public assistance programs or employer coverage.

That means that for the $150 million we spent to build the MNsure exchange, the state is paying to cover about 112,000 people who did not have access to coverage before. This is an extremely high cost for a very small number of people.

And when we talk about a small number of people, we could just as easily be referring to MNsure sign up. The MNsure Board met last Wednesday, and the latest numbers they released are not good news.

As of March 8th, MNsure claims that 33,680 are in the process of enrolling in commercial plans—80 percent below the “low scenario” expectations that were in place when MNsure was passed into law last year.

What is even more alarming is that 33,680 is probably too high an estimate. Because of MNsure’s poor tracking system their numbers most likely include canceled policies, duplicate applications and dental-only coverage.

The premium tax revenue on health insurance is MNsure's main funding source in 2015 and beyond to run their exchange. With such low enrollment, I am concerned MNsure will return to the legislature for additional funding and premiums will rise. Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for an ineffective, failed insurance exchange thrust on us by Governor Dayton and House Democrats.

Governor Releases Supplemental Budget

Governor Dayton issued a supplemental budget earlier this week following the news that our state has a $1.23 billion surplus for Fiscal Years 2014-15.

In his budget, Dayton includes $162 million in new spending and $455 million for additional reserves. The most notable part of his budget proposal, however, is an additional $616 million in tax adjustments—repealing a number of harmful tax increases he signed into law last year.

With the House voting to repeal three harmful business-to-business taxes last week and now the new governor’s proposal, it appears Democrats are feeling pressure to undo the mistakes of last year. These fixes are a good first step for Minnesota.

Other News

I was lucky enough to chair my first committee this week in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee. It was a great learning experience, and I was able to lead discussion and hear from testifiers on a number of bills.


As always, I am here to serve you. If I can ever be of assistance to you on a matter of state government, or if you have any ideas on how to make Minnesota better, please do not hesitate to contact me.