MN GOP candidates feud over health insurance

An unusually early campaign dustup is underway between two of the leading 2018 Republican candidates for governor.

Their disagreement is over health insurance policy.

Keith Downey, the former state GOP chair, fired the first salvo this week on social media when he accused state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, of bailing out rather than trying to kill the statewide health insurance exchange known as MNsure. Downey claims Dean used his position as chair of the House Health and Human Services committee to “prop up” MNsure by advancing a reinsurance bill last session. The measure provides subsidies aimed at stabilizing the cost of private insurance plans.

“He could have refused to hear the bill in his committee,” Downey wrote. “He could have led a charge to vote against passing it on the House floor. But he didn’t.”

Dean said Downey got it wrong, because he voted against the final version. Dean also said the reinsurance bill had nothing to do with killing or not killing MNsure.

“Stating that MNsure would be eliminated without this program is either embarrassingly ill-informed or telling an outright lie,” Dean said.

Both candidates oppose MNsure, which was created as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act. Dean has sponsored legislation to kill it.

In a new twist Thursday, Downey challenged Dean to debate the issue.

“In the American tradition, today I will be asking Matt to join me in a one-on-one debate on “MNsure’s future and the impact of recent legislation” in a mutually agreeable format,” Downey said. “Rather than respond to what are now personal and false attacks, I am proposing that we bring the debate to the people and let them decide for themselves.”

Dean quickly dismissed the challenge.

“I think he’s got to get his facts straight first,” he said. “Just making a baseless attack doesn’t get you a private debate.”