1.) The state health insurance exchange has about one month to present a 2015 budget to the Legislature, but probably won’t know its full financial picture until several weeks past that point. Lawmakers, especially Republicans, peppered interim MNsure CEO Scott Leitz and board chair Brian Beutner with questions about the exchange’s budget scenario during a Wednesday hearing of the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee. Enrollment in private commercial plans, or qualified health plans (QHPs), continues to trail projections, and the rate of sign-ups signals that MNsure will fall well short of a goal set for the March 31 end of open enrollment. As of earlier last week, 92,498 Minnesotans had enrolled in insurance plans through MNsure, but only 29,493 purchased private insurance plans on the exchange.
MNsure leaders hope those figures increase rapidly as the deadline approaches, but Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, reminded them that the Legislature would need to see a budget proposal before that point. “Hopefully we’ll have as much detail as you can possibly garner, because it is a matter of great interest to us as we deliberate what our proper role is,” Lourey said. The exchange is supposed to be funded by a small tax on private policies in MNsure, but present enrollment levels would lead to a budget deficit in both of the next two years.
2.) Marty Seifert is making his case to GOP delegates by saying one of his chief competitors, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, can’t raise enough money for a gubernatorial race. Speaking to the St. Cloud Times, Seifert said party activists should be given pause by Thompson’s low fundraising figures, relative to the rest of the field; Thompson raised $118,000 during 2013, and brought $50,000 in cash on hand into 2014. “There’s state reps that have more money than that,” Seifert said, “and I don’t know how you’re going to take Scott Honour out in a primary.” The argument marked one of the first direct engagements seen in that race so far. Seifert bested Thompson, but just barely, in a statewide straw poll taken during last week’s precinct caucuses, winning with 28 percent to Thompson’s 26 percent. Thompson countered that financial resources would come if and when he wins the party endorsement, and said he thinks many Republicans don’t know that Seifert has not committed to abide by that decision.
3.) Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, is borrowing a page from a playbook most often used by Republican elected officials, making a direct appeal for a specific company to relocate to Minnesota. As Volkswagen workers in Tennessee prepare to vote to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, GOP lawmakers in that state are threatening to pass legislation that would strip the company of state-backed business incentives if workers there unionize. Tomassoni issued a statement yesterday urging Volkswagen to consider an expansion in Minnesota, arguing that the state is both supportive of unionized labors and business-friendly; to make the latter point, Tomassoni pointed to business incentives passed during the 2013 session and the upfront sales tax exemption for capital investment. “We’d be more than happy to have Volkswagen in Minnesota,” said Tomassoni, chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee.
COMING & GOINGS