DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he’s ready to call a special session to address rising health insurance premiums, if House and Senate leaders can quickly agree on a fix.
Dayton wants to provide financial assistance, likely in the form of tax breaks, to Minnesotans who will be hit hard by 2017 premium increases for coverage purchased on the individual market. He specifically wants to help the 120,000 people who are not eligible for federal tax breaks.
During a news conference Friday, Dayton said he is proposing to use the $313 million scheduled to be added to the state’s rainy day fund later this year.
“Right now, it’s not just raining, it’s pouring on some Minnesotans,” Dayton said.
Dayton said a special session could come before or after the Nov. 8 election. But he wants agreement on an action plan by Nov. 1, so that people know what kind of help is on the way before the start of open enrollment. He urged lawmakers to set aside their political disagreements over the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) to find a short-term solution.
“During the past couple weeks some legislative leaders have said this special session is critical. It is now time to walk the talk and agree upon a solution to provide much-needed relief,” he said.
House Republicans, who have long opposed the state implementation of the federal health care law, pledged a willingness to address the issue. But in his response to Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, also continued to blame Democrats.
“House Republicans are committed to working quickly on ways to reduce costs and address the health care crisis Democrats created.” Daudt said. “It is my hope we can find areas of agreement and provide needed relief to Minnesotans suffering from the effects of Obamacare.”
Senate Democrats made their pitch for a special session on Thursday.
Last week, Dayton offered a surprisingly frank assessment of the ACA, saying it “is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.” The comment has since surfaced in campaign ads against Democrats.
Dayton, who’s been a longtime supporter of the law, began his news conference by saying he regrets that his statement was “wrongly used” that way. He also said he has been in contact with Obama administration officials to offer clarification and additional context. But Dayton said he stands by the statement.
“Those are the people we want to help,” he said.