By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/20/2017
In visiting with many residents throughout the district last summer, the most consistent complaint I heard centered on rising health care costs. These people were outraged at having to spend thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars each year on what they viewed as unsatisfactory health insurance, and wanted the legislature to act.
On January 19, the Minnesota House began to address this issue by approving the 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill.
Under this proposal, we are establishing an assistance program to offset the cost of premiums for qualifying enrollees who purchase health care coverage in the individual market. Those eligible would qualify for premium assistance equaling 25 percent of their premium this year.
The plan also would bring some access, competition, and transparency to the system in numerous ways, such as ending surprise billing and allowing for-profit HMO’s to enter the marketplace.
But the most important provision may be the extension of the 120-day continuity of care for critical cases. Enrollees who lost their previous insurance and are receiving treatment with an out-of-network provider on a new health plan would be entitled to continuation. Conditions for the extension would include a life-threatening mental or physical illness; a pregnancy beyond the first trimester; a physical or mental disability defined as an inability to engage in one or more major life activities for more than a year; and a disabling or chronic condition that is in an acute phase.
I was pleased to co-author this plan, and I believe it’s important to remind people that this is not the overall health insurance solution, but a first step of many steps towards turning things around. The legislature must be focused on unraveling this healthcare mess this session and providing needed premium relief, preserving care for patients with serious conditions, and increasing options for those shopping for health insurance is a good place to start.