After initially saying he and his caucus would consider going to court to stop the Dayton administration from establishing a health insurance exchange, Senate Health and Human Services Chairman David Hann said this week his caucus is no longer considering that option, instead seeing the issue as a legislative and political matter for 2012.
“The caucus is certainly not going to file any lawsuits,” Hann said in an interview this week. “We think that his assumption is inappropriate, but I don’t know that there is a practical way of preventing that.”
Hann’s statements stand in contrast to a blustery news conference he and Republican colleagues held in August 2011 in which they accused the Dayton administration of overstepping its authority in moving forward on a health care exchange. The Dayton administration has maintained it has full authority to continue work on an exchange and has held a number of recent meetings to continue those efforts.
“We’re going to look at what avenues we have to bring it to a halt to it,” Hann said at the time. “If [a lawsuit is] the avenue that we have to pursue, absolutely.”
At the time, Hann was responding to news that the state had received a $4.2 million grant from Washington to work on a health insurance exchange, which the state is required to have set up by 2013 under the federal health care law.
Since then, the Dayton administration’s efforts have continued apace, establishing a task force of advocates, lawmakers, industry representatives and others to work on the project. Although invited to participate, Hann and the Senate GOP have refused to take part, and Hann said this week he’s received no information from the administration on the work the group has been doing.
“We’ve invited the administration to come and talk to us about what they want to do,” Hann said, calling the task force a “political exercise.”
“Until they do,” he added, “I won’t have any idea what they’re thinking.”
At the same time, an increasingly diverse group of actors has come to the table to participate in the exchange effort. Business groups, the House GOP and even Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life have sought to take part in one way or another.
For his part, Hann said he’s been meeting with his caucus, committee members and industry representatives on other initiatives for the coming session and to draft a bill that might limit what an exchange can or can’t do under state law. Overall, though, it’s clear Hann doesn’t see his absence from the task force as designating him to a backseat in process.
“Anything that [the state does] with an exchange is going to be done by the Legislature,” he said. “As soon as [the administration] comes to grips with that maybe we can work on that.”
Ultimately, Hann said, the issues of health care policy and executive authority are both substantive and political issues that voters will have to consider when they head to the polls in future elections. With that in mind, though, he said he doesn’t intend to let the administration off the hook either at the Capitol this session or in a contest for public opinion.
“We’re going to call attention to those things,” Hann said. “But ultimately these are political judgments that people are going to have to make.”