(A comprehensive paper on this issue is available by clicking here.)
This Thanksgiving and Christmas could be one of the saddest ever for many Minnesotans. Instead of Christmas presents, families will be scrambling to find new health insurance to replace their employer-provided health insurance.
Pres. Obama knew in November of 2013 that this was going to happen in 2014. At that time, and again in March 2014, Obama told each state governor they could protect their residents from these record rate increases. They could sign the opt-out waiver and allow employers to choose to keep their current health plans, instead of the new expensive Affordable Care Act health plans.
Thirty-nine (39) state governors signed the waiver – even California Gov. Jerry Brown. Signing the waiver protected millions of Americans from losing their group health insurance due to unaffordable rate increases. Although it is hard to believe, Gov. Dayton did not join with these other 39 governors to protect Minnesotans from record premium increases.
Employers and employees across the state began writing to Dayton in early summer, asking him to sign the waiver. On September 8, Dayton wrote to employers, claiming that it was now too late for him to act. He said that “…75 percent of businesses in Minnesota’s small group market have already complied with the law.” His excuse is unacceptable. His logic is that 75 percent have already endured the pain, with historic premium increases for many. So now he is implying it would be unfair to allow the other 25 percent to escape the pain. These are the employees whose new insurance will renew between October and December, 2014. This represents as many as 150,000 Minnesotans – 72,000 employees plus their children and spouses.
Dayton’s excuse also fails to mention how many thousands of Minnesotans have already lost their group insurance because he refused to sign the waiver.
Conveniently, many of those who have already lost their group insurance have been encouraged to go to MNsure to enroll. By the middle of September, over 275,000 individuals – more than 83 percent – of MNsure’s total enrollees are covered under government health plans: Medicaid or MinnesotaCare. It is certain that thousands of them previously were covered by employers. These employees had been relying on private health insurance, but now are dependent on government health plans – Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. And adding thousands more to government health plans means all of us are now forced to pick up the additional cost of coverage, when employers had been willing to pay this cost in the past.
As a result of Dayton’s refusal to sign the waiver, employers across Minnesota now face insurance premium rate increases of 30-90 percent. Thousands of Minnesota employees and their dependents still face the nightmare of losing their group insurance, and this reality will hit them during the holiday season. And we face hundreds of millions of dollars in new cost to support these individuals who are now enrolling in MNsure’s government health plans.
None of this had to happen, if Gov. Dayton would have signed the waiver.