Proposal would end affordable health care for more than 100,000 Minnesotans

On March 10, Representative Matt Dean introduced a bill that would dismantle a path to affordable health care for more than 100,000 Minnesotans. MinnesotaCare is a successful, decades-old health insurance option for working Minnesotans. MinnesotaCare offers these Minnesotans affordable health insurance that meets their health care needs – something they can’t find in the private market. The large, negative budget target given to the House Health and Human Services Committee lends dangerous momentum to this proposal that would have serious consequences across the state.

Currently, households earning 133 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines pay income-based premiums for health insurance through MinnesotaCare. That translates to an annual income of $15,654 to $23,540 for a single individual. Budgets that small are already squeezed to capacity by the demands of basic necessities like transportation, housing and food.

MinnesotaCare spans the state to serve Minnesotans who may otherwise be unable to find affordable health care:

  • MinnesotaCare covers mental health needs often left out of private plans.
  • Certain legal immigrants are ineligible for Medical Assistance, but can get coverage through MinnesotaCare.
  • Farmers, entrepreneurs and small business employees can rely on MinnesotaCare when affordable health insurance isn’t available through their job.

House File 1665 would completely repeal MinnesotaCare. People who currently qualify for MinnesotaCare would instead pick an insurance plan from the MNsure exchange. Monthly premiums for some could more than double, according to a handout Dean brought to the bill’s first hearing, though the bill provides an unspecified amount to reduce premiums.

Dean’s examples demonstrate the harmful costs imposed by his proposal by comparing the exchange’s “silver” plans to current MinnesotaCare coverage. Silver plans are the second-lowest “metal level” on MNsure. Silver plans generally have higher premiums than bronze plans, but may offer lower deductibles and co-pays. Under House File 1665, insurance companies would receive subsidies to lower some out-of-pocket costs for the people formerly covered by MinnesotaCare, but their costs would be higher than under MinnesotaCare.

Facing higher premiums than under MinnesotaCare, families could fall into the so-called “bronze trap.” MinnesotaCare participants facing already-tight budgets may only be able to afford the premiums for bronze plans, which may have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs. The trade-off for lower premiums is that when medical care becomes necessary, the family’s costs will be higher. And when people face higher out-of-pocket costs, they simply delay needed care.

If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ending MinnesotaCare would mean 100,000 Minnesotans would suddenly be left wondering how they’ll pay for their medication or if they can afford a trip to the doctor when they get ill.

-Ben Horowitz

About Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy advocate.
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