Category Archives: Article

Your Turn: Now is the time to fix MNsure problems

St. Cloud Times
by Tama Theis

Deadlines are looming under the Affordable Care Act, and the Legislature is choosing to ignore MNsure this session instead of fixing the plethora of problems and headaches it has caused thousands of Minnesotans.

March 31 is the deadline to have insurance under the ACA. After that, the IRS will charge a penalty to anyone uninsured. This is extremely concerning, as I am still hearing from constituents struggling to get insured through the massive, ineffective bureaucracy that is MNsure.

Hours-long call waiting, crashing websites, duplicative applications and a lack of communication between MNsure, the Department of Human Services and private insurers means many Minnesotans are left in limbo and unsure of their status in the system. Things are improving since its initial launch, but not fast enough.

And for many of those fortunate enough to have made it through the MNsure process, they are faced with higher costs, larger deductibles or both.

It is reassuring to hear some have seen their monthly health insurance costs go down with tax credits. However, their deductibles are often still extremely high, $10,000 or more. This is unaffordable for many.

Before the ACA, Minnesota was a top-ranked state for health care quality and coverage. In 2011, 91 percent of Minnesotans were insured, and of the 9 percent uninsured more than three-fourths had potential access to coverage through public assistance programs or employer coverage.

That means that for the $150 million we spent to build the MNsure exchange, the state is paying to cover about 112,000 people who did not have access to coverage before. This is an extremely high cost for a very small number of people.

And when we talk about a small number of people, we could just as easily be referring to MNsure sign-up.

As of March 8, MNsure claims that 33,680 are in the process of enrolling in commercial plans — 80 percent below the “low scenario” expectations that were in place when MNsure was passed into law last year. Even more alarming is that 33,680 may be too high an estimate.

The premium tax revenue on health insurance is MNsure’s main funding source in 2015 and beyond to run the exchange. With such low enrollment, I am concerned MNsure will return to the Legislature for additional funding and premiums will rise. Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for an ineffective, failed insurance exchange thrust on us by Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL.

The Legislature is calling this year an “unsession” to fix the mistakes, repealing unnecessary laws and making improvements. MNsure needs serious fixing and should not be ignored any longer.

I am encouraging my colleagues to make our system more efficient and economical for Minnesota consumers and taxpayers.

This is the opinion of Rep. Tama Theis, a St. Cloud resident who represents House District 14A. Theis can be reached by phone at 651-296-6316. She also can be contacted via email at rep.tama.theis@house.mn, or via mail at 223 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

Your Turn: Government making mistakes with taxpayer money

St. Cloud Times
by Tama Theis

It has been an honor representing House District 14A in the Legislature since last winter.

I was elected in a special election in February to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Steve Gottwalt. My first year has been filled with making new connections in our district and at the Capitol, learning our state’s complex budget and getting up to speed on my committee assignments. This all came while running a St. Cloud business with my husband, Greg.

Minnesota sits at an interesting point in history. For the first time in more than two decades, governor and Legislature is controlled entirely by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. There is very little balance in the decisions being made.

Dysfunction in Washington has led to gridlock and bitter partisanship. While I am firm in my principles of limited government and local control on issues such as taxes and education, I strongly feel we, as elected officials, must work toward the best solutions for all Minnesotans.

ACA flop

Gov. Mark Dayton has been one of the Obama administration’s top advocates among the 50 U.S. governors in implementing pieces of the Affordable Care Act within weeks of taking office in 2011. This law will alter health care for millions of Americans, many in a negative way.

The issue has been in the news daily for months, but Obamacare’s implications in Minnesota cannot be overstated. The state exchange created to implement the new law has been plagued with countless problems. The exchange’s security has been called into question, putting personal and financial privacy for customers in jeopardy. Long wait times and inconsistent website performance greet users even though the site has been “live” since Oct. 1.

The operation has cost taxpayers at least $150 million, and only a fraction of the estimated enrollment is being met. Even worse, thousands of Minnesotans are losing their coverage because of the requirements of Obamacare and thousands more will see premiums skyrocket. So far, more Minnesotans have been hurt by the Affordable Care Act than have been helped.

Fiscal issues

While our state budget is balanced, important fiscal decisions under the Republican Legislature of 2011-12 helped spur the surplus we see today. That surplus should not be used this spring to fuel wasteful spending and permanently grow the size and scope of government. There wasn’t a need for tax increases to balance our budget last spring, but Minnesota families and businesses were tagged with historical tax increases that went into effect July 1. Today, Minnesota is an island of high taxes in many categories.

I have worked with Democrats and Republicans on higher education. Our state’s colleges and universities are important in providing good jobs for future generations, but there is also an unmet demand for trade workers throughout Greater Minnesota. Students deserve a good education, and parents deserve to know tuition will one day become affordable. Streamlining administrative operations at our public colleges and universities is a critical first step.

With my background in small business, I have been focused on the needs of our job providers and how decisions at the Capitol directly affect them. These job providers need stability and certainty. They need to know that thousands of pages worth of new regulations or major tax increases are not on the horizon. Without stability in their fiscal planning, they can’t create the jobs that our hardworking families rely on.

If I can ever be of service to you or your family, do not hesitate to contact me.

This is the opinion of Tama Theis, a Republican representing District 14A. She can be reached at 651-296-6316.