Peggy Bennett: Important step made in fixing health care

Published 9:00 am Sunday, January 29, 2017

Capitol Comments by Pegg Bennett

Heading into the 2017 legislative session, we heard loud and clear from Minnesotans: fix the health insurance system. It’s certainly no easy task, but we made an important first step this week by passing $300 million of insurance premium relief (coming from our huge state emergency budget reserve fund) and common-sense reforms to increase choice, competition, and access to care.

This past fall, we learned some families were facing 60% health insurance premium increases, and could pay upwards of $40,000 of premiums and deductibles before receiving any benefit. This is probably the number one issue I hear most about, and I was proud to support a bill to provide a 25% reduction for those hard-hit people who don’t qualify for tax credits. Costs can still be high, but this will go a long way in helping middle class Minnesotans afford insurance coverage that had become totally unaffordable.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

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I am grateful that we could provide this financial relief for those who were hardest hit by the extreme premium hikes. That was important. However, equally critical were the reforms we included in this bill. These reforms will help bridge the gap for Minnesotans between now and when the legislature can initiate much needed long-term health care solutions.

One of the important reforms in this bill helps maintain continuity of care for patients. A good number of people who, because of being forced into new insurance, were sadly faced with losing their doctor or critical medical care while mid-treatment. This provision will help pregnant women keep their current doctor, assure individuals receiving life-saving treatment of continuing that care, and help those receiving end-of-life care. Premium relief by itself was very necessary, but helping folks continue these important treatments was just as critical.

We also increased health insurance options by allowing for-profit HMO’s to enter the Minnesota market. This is in-line with most other states in the country, and helps to bring more insurance choices to areas in our state where there may only be one or two plans available or, in some cases, no plans available.

Farmers and small business owners will also benefit from this new law. The provisions we pushed for will help farmers gain increased access with reduced prices. The legislation also modifies stop loss coverage which paves the way for small businesses with under 50 full-time employees to offer more affordable insurance for their workers.

When House Republicans maintained the majority last November, it was our goal to help make health insurance more affordable for the middle class. Our bill bringing premium relief and common sense reforms – which I am happy to say passed with a strong bipartisan vote – is an important first step toward that goal. There is still a lot more work to do, but the swift passage of this bill should be encouraging for residents around the state.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.