Abolish MNsure? Mark Dayton says, ‘We’ll see how it performs’

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Minnesota’s state-run health insurance exchange could be eliminated if it doesn’t perform well in the upcoming open enrollment period, Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday.

Dayton, who championed MNsure, told Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Weber that eliminating MNsure, as Republicans want to do, is one of several “legitimate ideas” for improving Minnesota’s broken individual health insurance market. Asked specifically whether he supports eliminating it, Dayton laid down a challenge.

“MNsure certainly has problems,” Dayton said. “We’ll see how it performs in the next couple months, in the open enrollment period. That will be real evidence of whether MNsure has gotten its footing and is providing the service that’s needed.”

In a statement, MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole said the exchange “has improved significantly every year” and predicted that “trend will continue again this year.”

Republicans say MNsure has been an expensive failure with issues sending out vital paperwork and limitations on some of its functionality.

“Democrats need to accept that MNsure is an expensive mess and we need to seriously explore ways to give Minnesotans the hassle-free health care experience they were promised,” Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said in a statement.

But Dayton also urged against any hasty action.

While shifting from a state-run MNsure to an exchange run by the federal government is on the table, Dayton noted advice from health care stakeholders to keep MNsure.

“Before we throw out MNsure and put ourselves on the federal exchange, and before out in Washington they try to abolish the Affordable Care Act, we need to look at what’s the alternative?” Dayton said.

O’Toole argued MNsure is no worse than the federal exchange.

“As for MNsure’s future, that’s obviously up to lawmakers, not us,” O’Toole said. “But it is important for everyone to understand that the prices on the individual plans would be exactly the same on the federal exchange as they are on MNsure.”

The governor is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act and its changes to the United States health care system, but he recently made waves by saying that “the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for an increasing number of people” and calling for changes.

Dayton has previously signaled that he was open to abolishing MNsure if necessary. In a letter to lawmakers last year, he said eliminating it should be an option policymakers consider.

State policymakers did consider eliminating it in a task force Dayton convened late last year, but a majority of the task force recommended keeping MNsure for now. Having a state-run exchange saddles Minnesota with additional operational costs, but also gives the state more flexibility, including the ability to offer its MinnesotaCare program for the state’s working poor.

Dayton will meet Tuesday morning with Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt to discuss potential fixes for Minnesota’s individual health insurance market.

This story has been updated with comments from MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole and Rep. Greg Davids.

This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. To view the original article, please click here