By Don Davis
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he was not involved in a request for an insurance company to lower its rates.
Dayton said that it would not have been appropriate for him to be part of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman’s request last year to PreferredOne to lower rates for 2014 health insurance policies it offered on the state-run MNsure Website.
After Rothman asked for the decrease, the insurer did lower rates. Now, PreferredOne says it will not offer policies on MNsure next year, citing lack of profit last year.
Republicans have tried to turn the instance into a campaign issue, saying that Dayton forced PreferredOne into lowering rates.
“I was not privy to the conversations … and I’m not supposed to be,” Dayton said Wednesday in response to a reporter’s question.
The Democratic governor added that the commissioner “cannot force anyone to lower rates.”
“I did not talk with Commissioner Rothman,” Dayton said when reporters pressed him if he knew about the request.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, has requested Dayton administration correspondence related to PreferredOne insurance rates under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
“We now know without a shadow of a doubt the Department of Commerce pressured health insurers to offer premiums that were unsustainable, forcing PreferredOne to leave the marketplace and leading to massive cost increases and fewer healthcare options for Minnesotans,” Benson said. “All signs point to the Dayton administration participating in calculated rate manipulation to gain political points, not caring about the harm done to consumers, and then trying to cover it up by misleading Minnesotans about the significant increases in their insurance premiums next year.”
Also, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, requested that the Senate Commerce Committee look into the situation.
“The Commerce Committee should investigate whether the Department of Commerce’s role in setting health insurance rates was politically motivated,” Gazelka said.
PreferredOne offered the lowest-cost premiums in MNsure’s first year, but as enrollments open soon for its second year most Minnesotans buying private insurance through the site will pay higher rates.
Two debates left
Each of Minnesota’s top two races in Tuesday’s election has one debate left.
Next up will be a Friday night governor candidates’ debate between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac.” It is to begin at 7 p.m. with co-hosts Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola and will air live on TPT2 in the Twin Cities and be rerun several times during the weekend on all public television stations serving Minnesota.
While the TPT debate will not have an audience, Minnesotans may attend a Minnesota Public Radio U.S. Senate candidate debate at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The traditional final debate of the season will be in downtown St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater between Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden. It will air live on MPR stations across the state.
Dayton may not be available to meet trick-or-treaters invited to his home Friday night. Even without the governor, they will be able to visit Dayton’s official residence at 1006 Summit Ave. in St. Paul from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Treats will include a variety of goodies, ranging from Salted Nut Rolls to toothbrushes.
Early voting still open
Minnesotans still may cast ballots early.
Absentee ballots for the first time are available to anyone, not just who are ill or expect to be out of town on Election Day.
State law requires county election offices (as well as those in cities that coordinate elections) to accept absentee ballots through Friday during normal business hours. On Saturday, they must be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and open until 5 p.m. Monday.