Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) joined his Senate DFL colleagues in their call for a special session to address rising health insurance premiums. On Thursday, the Senate DFL sent a letter to Governor Mark Dayton formally requesting a special session, saying there are viable solutions that have already been developed that could offer a short-term fix to avoid people having to pay skyrocketing premiums that are set to go into effect in January.
“I’m completely supportive of calling for a special session. People are scared and they’re frustrated with these skyrocketing costs. It’s incredibly important that we make a concerted effort to address these premium hikes immediately. We already have a bill drafted called the Minnesota Health Insurance Premiums Tax Credit that would ensure families aren’t paying more than 9.6 percent of their annual incomes to premiums. This can serve as a stopgap while we work on more comprehensive long-term reforms during regular session,” said Sen. Hoffman.
Addressing Minnesota’s rising health insurance rates
I am a long-time champion of better health care access and coverage for all Minnesotans. The current rate hikes for MNsure are incredibly troubling, and there is no denying that changes must be made. We can all agree on this. But it is also important to point out that last session, Senate Democrats heard and passed three separate proposals all aimed at reducing the price of premiums. These bills did the following:
- Sought federal approval to reduce the number of geographic rating areas. These federally mandated geographic ratings have contributed to higher rates in much of rural Minnesota. Bill chief authored by Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing).
- To increases choices, we introduced legislation directing Minnesota to apply for a federal waiver making it possible for all Minnesotans to purchase MinnesotaCare. By adding a new health plan (rated statewide) all rural families win with greater choice and lower cost. Bill chief authored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato).
- Requested a federal waiver to allow families, with employer provided health care, to include the premiums for family plans in their calculations when determining if they are eligible for a tax subsidy. This measure allows families that currently do not qualify for premium tax credits or cost sharing reductions to reduce the cost of their plan. Bill chief authored by Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna).
In addition to these proposals, I believe we should examine a reinsurance program that provides government assistance to insurance providers for the individuals with the most expensive medical conditions. This would bring down insurance premium costs considerably for all other individuals participating in the exchange. This has already been the case with the State of Alaska in legislation that was passed this year. The Senate has been looking ahead towards increasing health costs and have put forth solutions to help our communities, but we need to do more. These proposals, once signed into law, will benefit the thousands of Minnesotans seeking access to affordable health care.
Health and Human Services Bills Supported
Children Program Funding
Two of the major investments Senator Hoffman has supported over the last four years are increased resources for our child protection system and measures to reduce barriers and increase availability for families when in need of affordable child care. (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458)
- In 2015, Senator Hoffman supported an unprecedented $52 million ongoing investment in our state’s child protection system. This investment will provide counties with additional resources to better respond to child maltreatment reports and provide more tailored services to families in need.
- In the same budget, Senator Hoffman supported provisions that helped low-income families access affordable child care, so that families are able to participate in the workforce without losing money paying for child care.
Autism Treatment Options and Coverage Expansion
In each of the last four HHS budgets, the Senate has included measures to lessen the burden for families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Senator Hoffman has supported all of the Senate’s proposals and the final Conference Committee compromises. Some of the provisions include reducing the fees paid by parents of autistic children when they are accessing treatment, establishing a benefit in public programs to cover Autism-specific treatment, and requiring insurance companies to cover treatment of Autism in the private market. (HHS 2013 Budget, 05/18/13, H.F. 1233) (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172) (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458) (Omnibus Supp. 2016 Budget, 04/28/16, H.F. 2749)
Nursing Home Funding
Over the last four years, Senator Hoffman has voted for four Health and Human Services budgets that have provided more than $170 million in increased reimbursements for nursing homes. These funds are especially vital in the rural areas of our state, as in some smaller communities a nursing home may be the area’s largest employer. (HHS 2013 Budget, 05/18/13, H.F. 1233) (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172) (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458) (Omnibus Supp. 2016 Budget, 05/22/16, H.F. 2749)
5% Increase for HCBS
In 2014, Senator Hoffman supported a vital 5% rate increase for community-based providers across the state. These dedicated individuals provide services to the elderly and persons with disabilities in community settings, keeping them out of more expensive institutional care. The rate increase will help providers, especially in the rural area where there is a shortage of people willing to perform these tasks, retain quality employees. (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172)
In 2014, Senator Hoffman voted in favor of allowing very ill individuals to have access to medical cannabis in very controlled situations. Eligible individuals include those near the end of life as a result of a terminal illness, children with uncontrollable seizure disorders, and cancer patients who experience severe and chronic pain. (Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act, 05/16/14, S.F. 2470)