Minnesota Senate approves $1 billion, 5-year extension of reinsurance program – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Senate on Monday, March 14, voted 42-24 to again extend the state’s reinsurance program through 2027, in a move that supporters said could bring down the cost premiums for Minnesotans.

The program helps offset the cost of patients with more expensive health conditions for health insurance companies. And it is set to lapse at the end of the year unless lawmakers agree to step in.

The bill’s author, Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, said that lawmakers should extend the program and spend roughly $1 billion to keep it running because it has been effective in the last four and a half years in stabilizing costs in the individual health insurance marketplace. Without it, Minnesotans who purchase coverage through the individual market could see prices surge and options for health plans decrease, he said.

“We want to make sure that we have a process for making sure that people who are on the individual health plan know that they’re going to have coverage,” Dahms said. “We talk about different things and different options a lot, a lot of those have been looked at, and at the end of the day, what seems to work best is reinsurance.”

Some Democrats in the Senate attempted to amend the bill to cap premium increases in Minnesota’s individual market and limit the extension of the reinsurance program to encourage a quicker transition away from the program. Those were voted down but their authors said lawmakers should consider longer-term answers to address the state’s health insurance marketplace rather than continuing to put on a “Band-Aid.”

“It was always considered temporary, it was always considered something that would transition us to financial stability in the individual market, never considered as a comprehensive solution to our difficulties with health care quality and health care costs in this state,” Sen. Matt Klein , DFL-Mendota Heights, said. Klein is also a medical doctor. “I think it’s time we hold our legislative feet to the fire … so we get serious about proposing real health care programs in this state.”

A House committee has taken up and passed an altered version of the bill and legislative leaders have said the issue could come into negotiations over refilling the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund and sending out hero checks to front-line workers who stayed on during the pandemic.

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