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Capitol Chatter: 'Not affordable' insurance quote spurs lots of talk

Don Davis of Forum News Service

ST. PAUL—"The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people."

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had not even finished the sentence when political reporters knew they had a story. After all, Dayton has been a strong proponent of the federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, and pushed to establish a state online health insurance sales portal. That MNsure operation is Minnesotans' connection to Obamacare.

Health insurance rates keep going up under Obamacare. Dayton's commerce commissioner two weeks ago announced they would rise up to 67 percent for some policies bought on the individual market (which covers just 5 percent of Minnesotans because most get insurance through employers or the government).

It was no surprise that Republicans immediately used Dayton's comments to trash Obamacare, first in Minnesota and soon across the country.

Most notably, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump latched onto the Democratic Minnesota governor's catchy quote.

"Dem Gov. of MN. just announced that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is no longer affordable. I've been saying this for years- disaster!" Trump tweeted to his 12 million followers Thursday, Oct. 13, a day after Dayton made the comment.

Trump also mentioned the Dayton comment during a Thursday Cincinnati speech.

Dayton still supports the federal law. And he blamed congressional Republicans for refusing to take action to fix its flaws.

When Dayton said care no longer is affordable, he also said that Obamacare has helped improve the health-care system. He said state and federal lawmakers can make some changes that would slow the increases.

Bandwagon plays 'Special Session'

More and more Minnesota politicians are suggesting, or at least open to, a special legislative session to deal with soaring health insurance premiums.

Dayton, the only person who can call a special session, says it would not come until after the Nov. 8 election because of the politically charged campaign atmosphere. But he is open to one after the vote if it appears there is a need, and a solution at hand.

Minority Leader Paul Thissen, who could return to the speaker's chair if Democrats win back the House, said that if a special session is not possible, at least the 2017 Legislature should act on insurance quickly.

The session begins Jan. 3.

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, and Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, want that special session to be Nov. 9, even though many of their colleagues will not have had much sleep on election night.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman has said part of the reason for the steep increases is that the Minnesota insurance pool has many people who need more health care.

To remedy this, the two Republicans propose a new "reinsurance pool" plan, similar to one the state had before Obamacare, that would spread out the cost.

Voter registration deadline near

Minnesota voters have until Tuesday to register to vote before the Nov. 8 election.

They also may register on election day, but that would keep them in polling places longer than if they already signed up.

More than 3.2 million Minnesotans are registered to vote and thousands already have cast ballots in the state's new early voting program.

Voter registration applications are available at mnvotes.org, every state agency and all 87 county offices. Online registration is in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, Lao, Oromo, Khmer, Amharic and Karen.

8th a pricey contest

Minnesota's massive 8th Congressional District is beneficiary, if that is the right term, of more than $8 million in national campaign spending, mostly going to trash one of the candidates.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that as of Friday, the DCCC, the Democrats' main U.S. House campaign arm, had spent almost $2 million, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has poured in $2.2 million.

Their allies—the House Majority PAC for the Democrats and the Congressional Leadership Fund for the Republicans—have spent or plan to spend $2 million or more each.

The 8th covers northeast, north-central, central and east-central Minnesota, south nearly to the Twin Cities. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, is trying to defend his job against Republican Stewart Mills in a rematch from 2014.

Two other contested U.S. House races received about $2 million each: the 2nd, which is in the southern Twin Cities suburbs and to the south, and the 3rd, covering areas around Minneapolis.

Adjutant general to stay

Gov. Mark Dayton won an appeal to allow Maj. Gen. Richard Nash to remain Minnesota's adjutant general, the top state National Guard position.

Nash was supposed to retire on Sept. 30, but the federal Defense Department accepted Dayton's request to let the general remain on duty through at least Oct. 31, 2017.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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