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Davids blasts MNsure even as he seeks oversight role

ST. PAUL — One of MNsure’s fiercest critics is seeking a leadership post on a committee charged with overseeing the health-insurance exchange.

ST. PAUL — One of MNsure's fiercest critics is seeking a leadership post on a committee charged with overseeing the health-insurance exchange.

Preston Republican Rep. Greg Davids was recently appointed by Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt to the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee and Davids said he believes he has the votes to be elected chairman.

"I've been saying for three years this is not going to work and now it has not worked and we need to figure out what to do," Davids said. "This has been a $200 million debacle, and the Legislature had better stand up and do something about it."

Davids said he was asked by Daudt to run for chairman. But before he can seek that post, Davids has to overcome a legislative hurdle. The committee has to meet in order for there to be a leadership election, and the committee's co-chairman, Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said he has no plans to call a meeting. With lawmakers back in session, Lourey said he doesn't see a need for the legislative oversight committee to meet. Instead, he said legislators should be focused on passing legislation to improve MNsure.

"I just really think that during the legislative session, we engage a much broader number of legislators working through our legislative process," Lourey said.


Davids said if Lourey refuses to call a meeting of the committee, he will do it himself.

"How is the legislative oversight committee going to oversee MNsure if we're not going to have any meetings?" Davids asked.

The 10-member committee was established in 2013 to oversee the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota. It's required to meet at least once a year and submit recommendations for changes to the Minnesota Legislature. Half the members come from the House and the other half from the Senate. The speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader each appoint three members. The House and Senate minority leaders each appoint two members.

The Republican takeover of the Minnesota House means the committee will no longer be lead exclusively by Democrats. Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, had been the committee's other co-chairman.

In addition to Davids, Daudt also appointed Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, and Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen appointed Atkins and Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul.

A major question looming over this year's legislative session is whether Democrats and Republicans can find common ground when it comes to MNsure. Davids said MNsure is a complete failure and cannot be fixed. He's introduced legislation that would provide a tax credit to people who are fined for failing to buy health insurance, as required under the Affordable Care Act. He's also introduced another bill providing a tax credit for people who overestimate their income and have to pay back tax subsidies they received under Obamacare. He doesn't have a cost estimate for the bills yet and hopes to get detailed estimates of how many Minnesotans will be stuck paying penalties.

"Hardworking Minnesotans are going to get hit hard by fines," Davids said.

Lourey has taken a very different approach, authoring a bill that would dissolve the exchange's governing board and make MNsure a state agency. He argues such a move would improve MNsure's accountability and oversight.


"We made the wrong call on the governance (of MNsure) and being willing to admit that and bring it into a departmental model would be a good step," Lourey said.

But Davids is skeptical Lourey's proposal can win over the GOP-led House.

"Why would we create a state agency for something that has failed?" he asked. "So we can pump hundreds of millions more into it?"

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said he hopes Davids will focus on finding ways MNsure can better serve Minnesotans. He noted Davids said a year ago that "people will die because of MNsure."

"While that was an outrageous statement clearly designed to undermine MNsure's success, it didn't stop over 100,000 Minnesotans from enrolling in higher-quality, affordable health care coverage," Thissen said. "There is more work to do to make sure MNsure can effectively serve all Minnesotans seeking health care coverage, and I hope Rep. Davids as co-chair of the oversight committee will make that his first priority."

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