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Next step for those in health care crisis

The rising cost of health care has proven unbearable for Minnesotans who obtain coverage through the individual market but are ineligible for subsidies. Health insurance companies providing coverage in this market have raised premium rates by 50-67 percent.

This increase does not impact all. If you have coverage through an employer, you're likely not seeing these rates. And if you are in the individual market and receiving subsidies, you'll receive additional help with the costs.

This heavy cost burden falls on about 5 percent of Minnesotans who purchase their health insurance through the MNsure exchange but receive no government subsidies. The relatively small number of people in this market is a significant factor as to why the costs are so high. Premiums are lowered when there is a larger coverage pool.

A friend recently shared his story with me. He is a professional in Duluth with a young family. He is self-employed and currently gets insurance through the individual market with no subsidies. His family faces health insurance deductibles and premiums in 2017 of up to $20,000, before they'd see a single dollar of benefit from having coverage. He's considering going without and just paying the penalty.

This is a story repeated throughout Minnesota. We must take action when our neighbors are forced to gamble with their family's health. In Minnesota, I believe we can do better.

There was much talk about a special session before Election Day and that conversation must continue. Post-election, there is talk of eliminating MNsure and Obamcare. Regardless, we have Minnesotans right now who need to purchase affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. It is the Minnesota Legislature's duty to quickly find a solution.

In 2017, there will be new leadership in Washington and the Minnesota Legislature. And I'll be stepping away from public service after nearly 15 years. I could say, "Let's leave this problem for others to solve," but that's an abdication of responsibility.

I urge current legislative leadership to call a special session in the coming weeks to craft a short-term solution. I also urge newly elected members to the Minnesota House and Senate to set aside their differences and work together to offer an ongoing solution for Minnesotans paying these high health insurance premiums. These rates will go into effect as soon as January. Time is of the essence.

Roger Reinert

Roger Reinert is a Duluth resident.

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