Daily Digest: Health care and House races

Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Health care emerges as key issue in state House races. House Republicans are touting their push last year to create a $542 million reinsurance program, which subsidizes insurance companies for expensive claims. They credit the program for recent reductions in individual market premiums. Republicans and their allies are accusing DFL candidates who want to allow people to buy into MinnesotaCare as backing an expensive “government takeover” of health care. Political action committees buying ads in some of the races and GOP candidates contend the health care switch that Democrats favor would raise taxes by $17 billion. The estimate comes from a 2012 report titled “Analysis of a Single-Payer Plan in Minnesota,” which was written by the consulting firm Lewin Group for the Minnesota nonprofit Growth and Justice. “It’s a really egregious misrepresentation of the report,” said Dane Smith, senior fellow at Growth and Justice. Republicans ignored the report’s main conclusion that a single-payer system would save money, Smith said. A change to single-payer would result in a nearly 9 percent annual reduction in health care spending and average family savings would top $1,300, according to the report. Employers would also see reduced costs. “It is true that if you have total public financing, universal health care the way most other nations do, the portion that you pay to governments would increase,” Smith said. “But you completely eliminate what you pay in the private markets.” The stakes in the debate are high. Republicans control the House. Democrats need to pick up 11 seats in November to win the majority. (MPR News)

2. A similar debate is playing out in the governor’s race. Health care has emerged as the most contentious issue in the Minnesota governor’s race, as both candidates grapple with the bedeviling details of a system that is both worrying to families and phenomenally expensive to taxpayers. Republican nominee Jeff Johnson and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz both say that all Minnesotans — even those with pre-existing conditions — should have access to affordable health care. That’s where the agreement ends. A fiery exchange at a debate in Willmar on Tuesday drove home the divide, and Johnson also criticized Walz over health care earlier in the day at a news conference. (Star Tribune)

3.  Will E15 do much to help farmers? The ethanol industry applauded President Trump’s announcement this week allowing summertime sales of E15. Currently, the ethanol-gasoline blend can only be sold from September through May. Yet skeptics doubt the announcement will have much impact on the industry or farmers, since E15 sales are fairly small. The ethanol industry pushed for expanded E15 sales for years. So it was a happy moment for them when the president approved the idea this week at a rally in Iowa. Mick Miller, who manages the Denco ethanol plant in Morris in west central Minnesota, said removing the sales restriction will boost E15 sales. “This is a big win and we’re very, very thankful for the president’s leadership and making this happen.” Others say the move may not change much. Iowa State University economics professor Sebastien Pouliot says it’s not clear if gas stations will want to spend the money required to install new equipment to sell E15. “In some cases, it can be quite a significant investment and it’s not an easy decision for sure.” (MPR News)

4. Wardlow runs TV ad attacking Ellison. Inside a Rochester union hall on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison found a small audience eager to discuss the workers’ rights issues that he’s emphasizing in his Democratic campaign for attorney general. Ellison continued to work the campaign trail even as his Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow, released a new TV ad that hammers Ellison for a domestic abuse claim by an ex-girlfriend. Jotting down notes as he listened to about a half dozen local labor leaders gathered inside the Laborers’ Local 405 in Rochester, Ellison promised to better enforce existing labor laws and to close a gap in withheld wages that he said cost Minnesota workers millions in lost income each year. Absent from the discussion was any talk of an allegation by ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan that Ellison he emotionally and in one instance physically abused her. Ellison denies it, and an investigative report commissioned by the DFL Party failed to substantiate the claim. Ellison also criticized Wardlow at the labor event as a champion of right-to-work laws that reduce union membership. Wardlow, a former state representative from Eagan, used his first TV ad of the campaign to label his opponent as “Extreme Keith Ellison” for supporting “cop killers,” “open borders” and being accused of abuse. (Star Tribune)

5. Better know your district. Our friends at the APM Research Lab have updated their tool that shows demographic information about every congressional district in the country. Here are a few quick facts about Minnesota districts: While the 8th district is one of the least populated (behind the 7th, which has the absolute fewest residents) it has the most potential voters — numerically and as a percent of its population (78 percent of all residents). In the 4th and 5th districts, about 25 percent of potential voters are people of color. In the 4th and 5th, about 1 in 10 potential voters is an immigrant who has become a citizen of the U.S. That’s in contrast with almost no voting immigrant presence in the 7th and 8th, where there are fewer than 2 percent of potential voters who are naturalized citizens. The 7th and 8th districts are the oldest, based on median age (41 and 43, respectively). Find out lots more here. (APM Research Lab)

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