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Dayton: 'Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable'

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton tells reporters Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, that the federal "Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable" and he is looking into what the state can do to reduce health insurance costs. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)1 / 2
Gov. Mark Dayton autographs a sign of the new MNSure health insurance marketplace Wednesday, March 20, 2013, after signing a bill making it law. With him is Senate bill author Sen. Tony Lourey of Kerrick. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)2 / 2

ST. PAUL—Minnesota's governor says a President Barack Obama inspired health-care law needs work.

"The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people," Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday, Oct. 12, while encouraging state and federal lawmakers to make changes.

Soaring health insurance costs are a "very serious problem," Dayton told reporters seeking reaction to his administration's recent announcement that individual health insurance policies' premiums will jump 50 percent to 67 percent next year.

Dayton's comments are significant, coming from a Democratic governor who was among Obamacare's biggest supporters. Republicans immediately jumped onto his words.

"Gov. Dayton finally admitted Obamacare and MNsure have failed," Minnesota Republican Chairman Keith Downey said, although Dayton was not critical of MNsure on Wednesday. "I guess it's better late than never, but Minnesota Republicans pointed out these flaws and tried to pass amendments to the legislation when Democrats under single-party rule first passed it without a single Republican vote. And since then, Republicans have repeatedly proposed solutions, but the Democrats shot them all down."

The 2017 insurance rate increases are among the highest in the country, but Dayton said that is because the state's rates were lower when Obamacare began and now they are catching up with other states.

Dayton said he is looking into what Minnesota can do to hold down insurance increases, including whether there is a need to call a special legislative session before the regular session begins Jan. 3. However, Dayton added, he will not start discussions about it with legislative leaders until after the Nov. 8 election.

Republicans already have laid out their proposals, including asking the federal government to grant the state exemptions to some of the health care law.

Dayton's Commerce Department commissioner, Mike Rothman, said a week and a half ago that the insurance situation is an emergency and without action there may be no individual policies available for Minnesotans next year.

The issue is over policies sold to people who do not get insurance through their employers or government programs. About 5 percent of Minnesotans buy individual insurance policies.

Dayton and Rothman said the high premiums cannot be blamed on MNsure, the state-operated sales system for individual policies. Republicans disagree.

Both encouraged people who buy individual insurance policies to use MNsure because only the state program offers government aid that can cut premiums. Policies purchased from brokers or directly from insurance companies cannot offer the government-provided breaks.

Dayton said he would like federal officials to offer more aid and to enact new ways to provide funds to insure people with big claims.

Despite the Obamacare problems, the governor said that the health care law has many good features, such as a provision requiring insurance companies provide policies for people with pre-existing conditions.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.