Senate DFL calls for Special Session to address health insurance premium hikes

ST. PAUL, MINN –Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) kicked off a press conference Thursday afternoon to formally ask Governor Dayton to call a Special Session. DFL leaders say there are viable solutions that have already been developed that could offer a short-term fix to avoid people having to pay skyrocketing premiums that are set to go into effect in January.

“I have spoken with my caucus members and we are in agreement that a Special Session is the best course of action to address these health insurance premium hikes. While we acknowledge that these hikes only affect 5 percent of Minnesotans – some of these people are being forced to pay disproportionately high rates that they simply can’t afford. A Special Session gives us the opportunity to offer them some short-term relief, and then work together with Republicans for long-term solutions during the regular session,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook).

“We have a workable solution that we are proposing – it’s a Minnesota health insurance premiums tax credit, it will go a long way in reducing the amount a family or individual is forced to pay for their health insurance in 2017. We have always worked to make health insurance affordable for ALL Minnesotans – and we’re prepared to work quickly before these rates go into effect. During session, I’m looking forward to taking a deeper dive into other alternatives that can addresses the costs of health insurance in the long term,” said Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance committee Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick).

“Last year I authored this tax credit bill to provide relief to Minnesotans lacking affordable choices in the individual health insurance market, including many farmers, small businesses, and families in southeastern Minnesota. This bill targets relief to those who need it most by offering a tax credit to hardworking families and individuals facing unreasonably high health insurance premiums who may not qualify for similar federal tax credits. Minnesota has a history of ensuring top quality health care to its citizens, no matter their income – and this bill represents our best hope for making 2017 premiums more affordable for everyone in the individual market,” said bill author Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing).

“We also want to remind folks that there is a lot of misinformation about MNsure and the individual insurance market and the reason behind these premium hikes. It’s important to understand that rising healthcare costs are the primary driver of rate increases, not MNsure.  MNsure is simply a website where consumers can purchase their health insurance. Those in the individual market are justifiably angry and I share their frustration – but let’s make sure we focus our energy on the interventions that will address the real problems,” said Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Policy Committee Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato).

“What’s so frustrating about the situation we’re in is that we could have averted this crisis last session. The bills the Senate DFL introduced had Republican authors in the House. Those bills didn’t move. Republicans keep saying they want to find solutions – well they’ve had the opportunity to work on improvements both at the federal and state level for years – but preferred to play politics rather than take care of the Minnesotans they were elected to serve,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis).