Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MNsure no longer a sure thing

Almost two years ago this day, Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law MNsure, which is Minnesota's state healthcare exchange. And from day one it's been beset with problems.

Whether it was the overly ambitious goal of having a usable website within seven months, inept upper management, an insurance carrier with the cheapest rates opting out of the exchange, or said exchange being the proverbial money pit, MNsure has had little to no positives on which to glean. And the DFL has no one but themselves to blame given they had complete control of state government when this law was constructed. And because DFLers had carte blanche to do whatever they so desired, GOP input into this legislation was pretty well ignored.

Whenever there was input from Republican legislators on how to fix this MNsure monstrosity once it was law, Dayton (as he is wont to do) merely lashed out at critics as being "dastardly" or accused Republicans of grandstanding on the issue. It was pretty clear that Dayton himself was not serious on how to address very obvious shortcomings.

Last month Legislative Auditor James Nobles, whom many in both parties consider to be the most even-handed individual in St. Paul, was very plain in his criticism, emphasizing that MNsure's "failures have outweighed its achievements" in year one. Despite that, Dayton still seemed determined to bury his head in the sand. I guess it's easy for Dayton to utilize such an approach since he doesn't have the burden of facing voters in 2016, unlike his fellow DFLers in both chambers of the legislature.

One month later, perhaps Dayton is finally coming around.

Gov. Mark Dayton is open to abolishing MNsure, the embattled health insurance exchange he championed and has defended from Republican attacks, the governor announced Monday.

That’s the most drastic option Dayton mentioned Monday in a letter calling for a task force to study “future options” for health care reform in Minnesota. Dayton says the task force could look at replacing MNsure with a federal health insurance exchange, with keeping MNsure but seeking a federal waiver to make major reforms, or with just making minor adjustments to shore up the agency.

“The task force would consider all conceivable options,” Dayton wrote in the letter to legislative leaders.

Republicans have called for major reforms to MNsure, specifically either abolishing it or seeking a waiver to make major reforms.

“We don’t think we should continually put Minnesotans through that messy process,” Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, said earlier this year, while introducing a bill backed by Republican leadership to make major changes to MNsure.

While I'm certain the GOP is somewhat encouraged that Dayton is finally acknowledging MNsure's problems, there's still some gaps to be closed.

Though Dayton’s task force proposal opens the governor up to major MNsure reforms, it would also delay those reforms until at least next year. His task force would report by Jan. 1, 2016.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt slammed the task force as a stalling tactic.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable that long,” Daudt said of MNsure. “Frankly we can’t let Minnesotans continue to get hurt by this, and we can’t sit by for another year while more Minnesotans are hurt by it. So it’s time to deal with it, and it’s time to deal with it right now.”

Dayton had every opportunity to acknowledge MNsure's issues last year and thus he and the DFL-controlled House and Senate could've been viewed as the saviors had meaningful reforms been enacted. But since they all continued to kick the proverbial can down the road, any reforms now will require some acquiescence to a GOP majority in the House. As Daudt said, it needs to be sooner rather than later.


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