Walz Administration Will Push for MinnesotaCare Buy-In Option

Lt. Gov-elect Peggy Flanagan (D-MN) told the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Wednesday that the incoming administration plans to push for a MinnesotaCare buy-in option.

The public health insurance option was widely criticized by Republicans on the campaign trail, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, who criticized Gov.-elect Tim Walz (D-MN) for not considering “the people paying the bill.”

Under the buy-in option, Minnesotans currently excluded from MinnesotaCare because of income restrictions would be able to opt for the state-managed health insurance, which comes with lower monthly premiums. Some Republicans think the proposal would effectively lead to a single-payer health care system, which also has Walz’s approval.

“Eventually this does lead to single payer. Once our insurance market is gone it’s not going to come back,” State Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) said of the buy-in option, according to MPR.

Critics also argue that a buy-in option would hurt doctors and hospitals since MinnesotaCare pays providers less than commercial insurance companies, MPR explains.

“If hospitals are continually being underpaid for their ongoing costs and they start to collapse or have deficits, how long is it before they come back to the state and ask to borrow money for equipment?” Benson added.

Outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton (D-MN) supports a buy-in option, but was blocked by a Republican-controlled legislature from making any headway on the proposal. Dayton’s office ball-parked the initial startup costs at around $12 million, but Benson thinks the figure would be much higher.

An October MPR/Star Tribune poll found that 70 percent of Minnesotans support “letting people buy in to public health insurance programs including Medicare and MinnesotaCare,” and healthcare was consistently ranked as the top issue among Minnesota voters.

Walz campaigned on the issue and advocated for a “strong public health care option for any Minnesotan who wants it” on his campaign website.

“Tim believes that a single-payer type system is on Minnesota’s horizon, but that immediate action needs to be taken to control costs and improve care,” his website states.

During her Wednesday visit to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Flanagan also said that the Walz administration would back paid family and maternity leave.

“I know that here in Minnesota we have some of the best and brightest minds to figure out how we get this done and how we work together to be sure that our kids, our new infants, those who are adopted and brought into families have an opportunity to get a really solid start,” she said.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to anthony.gockowski@gmail.com.

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