The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 26, 2013

Dayton defends MNsure from critics, potential challengers

ST. PAUL — MNsure is barely three weeks old, and, like President Barack Obama, Gov. Mark Dayton has found himself defending the state's new health insurance marketplace against heavy criticism that their respective exchanges are not working.

Compared to the federal insurance site that 36 states are using, Minnesota's homegrown exchange is in good shape, Dayton said recently.

"Fortunately, we decided to go our own route in Minnesota and the Legislature has supported that," he told reporters. "I think the MNsure beginning has been not perfect. But given the complexity and scope of the project, I think it's performed phenomenally well."

From the outside it appears MNsure has been working better than the federal exchange, although there are still plenty of complaints.

Obama has called for a "tech surge" to get the federal operation on track, while MNsure officials have been making what appear to be smaller-scale adjustments.

Dayton put MNsure on the fast-track when he took office in 2011, but was far from a public cheerleader at the outset. A supporter of a single-payer plan, Dayton called MNsure a "big gamble" earlier this year. He's clearly gotten more comfortable with the plan, but his recent comments are also a response to a brewing political battle over the exchange in next year's gubernatorial race.

Republicans vying to challenge Dayton next year are targeting MNsure. And they're capitalizing on the problems plaguing the federal exchange built by the Obama administration to raise money and to link Dayton to the federal exchange's problems. At an August debate, Dayton's challengers staked out their territory on MNsure.

"In 2015, when I'm governor — what do you do about it? My gut reaction is that you work from day one to eliminate it," said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

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