Health insurance premium relief and reform is on the way for tens of thousands of Minnesotans. District 16B State Rep. Paul Torkelson helped approve a health care emergency aid and access proposal in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and the measure was recently signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.

“We are moving forward steadily with our effort to assist with health insurance premiums and take the first steps toward reform,” Torkelson said. “Of the many good provisions in this bill, one that is sure to interest many in southwestern Minnesota is an initiative that gives farmers a better opportunity to acquire affordable health care.”

Torkelson said he was pleased with the overwhelming bipartisan support the legislation received, as it was approved in the House by a 108-19 vote and in the Senate with a 47-19 margin.

“We’ve been hearing a lot from families that are hurting and getting hit hard not only by premium increases and limited access as well,” said District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski in a recent press release. “Hopefully this bill starts the rebuilding process, so that as plans are created for 2018, we can increase accessibility and increase options so we can start turning this ship around from the iceberg that is Obamacare.”

Specifically the proposal provides a one-time appropriation of roughly $325 million from budget reserves to offset 25 percent of premium costs this year for eligible residents.

Torkelson said it also includes several necessary reforms, as it provides 120 day continuity of care for critical health care cases, allows more HMOs to operate in Minnesota, orders an audit to determine how the plan is working and allows organizations with member owners – such as farm cooperatives – to provide health insurance to their members.

“This sounds like a very good idea to me, and I hope our co-ops will take advantage and offer this service to their members,” Torkelson said. Torkelson expects more long-term health insurance reform proposals to be debated throughout the session.

“In order to provide urgently-needed health insurance premium relief to 125,000 Minnesotans, I am signing this essential legislation today. I do not agree with everything included in it,” said Gov. Mark Dayton in a statement released Jan. 27. “I have said repeatedly that I think it is unnecessary and unwise to rush the ‘reforms’ added to this bill, without proper public review or full consideration of their consequences. I am especially concerned that the change to allow foreign and for-profit insurers into the Minnesota market has not been adequately reviewed, and I ask the legislature to seriously re-evaluate this provision, when future health care legislation is considered. However, I appreciate that the bill’s conferees agreed to my proposed mechanism to provide this premium relief as quickly as possible, and I commend the House leadership for championing the important ‘Continuity of Care’ addition to the bill. “I also appreciate the Senate leadership’s willingness to set aside, for now, the reinsurance provision, which I have urged be given more careful consideration through the appropriate legislative committees, and I am relieved that the conferees wisely rejected the House amendment, which would have removed important health care protections for Minnesotans. “The legislature and I must now turn our attention to making good health care coverage available and affordable for all Minnesotans. “As I said the other night, ‘If we all give a little, Minnesotans will gain a lot.’ That spirit prevailed in negotiating this legislation. May it continue.”

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota