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Speaker demands health insurance action or will ask Dayton to resign

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt says on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, that he will call for Gov. Mark Dayton to resign if he does not adequately deal with what is being called a health insurance crisis. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL—Minnesota's top elected Republican says he will call for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's resignation if he does not put in enough effort to solve what is widely regarded as a health insurance crisis.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said on Wednesday, Oct. 26, that the Dayton administration has thousands of workers who could work on improving the health insurance situation, in which people buying individual polices could see premiums rise up to 67 percent, coverage fall and deductibles soar to several thousand dollars.

"He should have a war room set up," Daudt said, adding it should be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While Daudt said that his House staff is working on a solution, he has nowhere near the manpower the Dayton administration can put toward the issue.

The speaker said he expects the governor to call him so they can begin working together on solving the problem, adding that he would be waiting by the telephone for a call. But Dayton's office had little to say about it.

"We are not going to dignify this temper tantrum with a response," spokesman Linden Zakula said.

The situation has been brewing for weeks, since the Dayton administration announced that insurance companies were raising premiums on insurance policies bought by individuals an average of 50 percent to 67 percent, and they would only accept 25,000 new customers. Once those limits were reached, most Minnesotans buying individual policies would be forced to buy a Blue Cross Blue Shield health maintenance organization policy that costs more than others, includes high deductible costs and many not cover local doctors.

About 5 percent of Minnesotans buy policies on the individual market, with most getting coverage through their employers and government programs. The rising individual policy costs do not directly affect those policies.

Dayton and legislators have said a solution to the issue is needed soon because Minnesotans begin signing up for 2017 insurance next Tuesday. Many say a short-term solution is needed for next year's sign-up, which ends at the end of December, and a long-term fix to get more insurance companies selling individual policies and at more affordable prices.

Daudt said Republicans would be willing to consider Democratic proposals to subsidize 2017 premiums.

Dayton said that lawmakers need to come up with solutions.

"I don't know what more I can do..." the governor said. "I don't consider myself to blame that this process has not moved forward."

However, the administration does have state employees working on the insurance situation, but there was no word on Wednesday when a full proposal will be ready.

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.