Speaker Demands Health Insurance Action Or Will Ask Dayton To Resign

Minnesota’s House speaker says he will ask Gov. Mark Dayton to resign if the governor does not does not put in enough effort into solving what is widely regarded as a health insurance crisis.

Thousands of state employers are at Dayton’s disposal to fix the situation, Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a fiery news conference Wednesday, Oct. 26. “If I find out those people aren’t working 24/7 to find a solution for these people to get health insurance on Jan. 1, I am going to call for Dayton’s resignation myself, personally. This is absolutely a dereliction of leadership.”

While Daudt did not call for Democrat Dayton to resign immediately, he said that the governor should “have a war room set up where they are trying to solve this, and I should be getting hourly updates with what they are coming up with.”

Administration officials say they are working on the insurance situation, but there was no word on Wednesday when a full proposal will be ready.

Disputes over insurance have been heating up as the Nov. 8 election nears, a day that is a week after Minnesotans start buying individual health insurance policies.

Many legislative candidates from both major political parties say that when they talk to voters the top issue, by far, is health insurance costs.

Daudt said that Dayton needs to call him soon to begin working out a solution.

“Stop having press conferences, stop drafting letters,” Daudt said to the governor. “Pick up the damn phone and let’s solve the problem.”

On the other hand, Daudt said that he should call the governor. The two have not talked for weeks.

Dayton’s spokesman would say little about Daudt’s comments: “We are not going to dignify this temper tantrum with a response,” 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 are reached, most Minnesotans buying individual policies would be forced to purchase a Blue Cross Blue Shield health maintenance organization policy that costs more than other insurance, 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.

Daudt said Republicans would be willing to consider Democratic proposals to subsidize 2017 premiums. “This is such a crisis that anything in on the table now.”

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.

When the high 2017 premiums first were made public, Dayton said he would like a special legislative session to deal with the issue, but only after politics quiet down following the Nov. 8 election. However, he later said he wanted a solution before Minnesotans begin buying their policies next week.

The governor has suggested that $313 million destined for the state budget reserve be diverted to help Minnesotans pay the high insurance costs in the next two month.

“Democrats in the House and the Senate, with the support of Gov. Dayton, put forward concrete proposals to provide immediate financial relief to families paying more than 10 percent of their income in health care costs,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, adding that Republicans should sit down with Democrats and discuss solutions. “We believe this is a commonsense way to help Minnesota families right now, and it should have strong bipartisan support.”