PoliGraph: A bailout for MNsure? Not so.

poligraph-falseRepublicans have zeroed in on a new election-year talking point about MNsure. They say that House Democrats authorized a multi-million dollar bailout for the program.

Take GOP gubernatorial hopeful Scott Honour who made the following statement in a recent press release:

“Fixing [MNsure’s] problems will be expensive, and Minnesotans are unjustly being asked to pay the bill for Governor Dayton’s failed Obamacare exchange. Just days ago, the House passed a $442 million bailout of Obamacare-MNSure in the omnibus supplemental spending bill.”

A bailout for MNsure? That’s hardly the case.

The Evidence

Honour and other Republicans, including Marty Seifert’s running mate Rep. Pam Myhra, have trumpeted this claim, and it appears they are talking about a complicated budget maneuver in the House supplemental spending bill passed in the first week of April.

It concerns the Health Care Access fund, money that comes from a 2 percent tax on health care providers including doctors, dentists, and hospitals. The fund was created in the mid-1990s to pay for MinnesotaCare, the state’s subsidized health insurance program for the working poor.

Last year, the Legislature decided to use some of that money to help pay for Medicaid because the state was expanding eligibility for the program. At the time, the state’s number crunchers were expecting a big influx of cash into the Health Access Fund from the federal government. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration promised to help the state cover more of the cost of MinnesotaCare. Those reimbursement rates are tied to the monthly premiums of plans sold on the state’s new health insurance exchange, MNsure.

But as it turns out, the Health Care Access Fund is now projected to run a shortfall of $647 million at the end of 2017. The deficit is largely due to the fact that MNsure’s premiums were much lower than expected, so the federal government’s reimbursement for MinnesotaCare is lower, too.

Now, the House has proposed shifting about $403 million in Health Care Access Fund costs to the general fund in. The shift doesn’t come with an additional appropriation.

That’s not to say MNsure isn’t in some financial trouble due to the fact that it has sold fewer plans than expected. At the moment, the agency is facing a $5 million shortfall next year, but is hoping to use federal dollars to stay solvent.

The Verdict

Republicans are using questionable logic to link the House supplemental spending bill to a MNsure bailout. The legislation includes no additional money for the agency.

And to say that shifting the projected Health Care Access Fund shortfall costs to the general fund is a “bailout” is a stretch.

PoliGraph rate’s this claim false.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Doug Berg, Analyst, House Research

Memo, Department of Human Services, “Change in Health Care Access Fund balance from 2013 End of Session to 2014 February Forecast”

Valentina Weis, spokeswoman, Scott Honour

Mike Howard, spokesman, Minnesota House DFL Caucus