Guest Column: Lohmer legislative update

Lohmer

Lohmer

With October in full swing, Minnesota has entered the first month of MNsure — the Minnesota arm of Obamacare — conducting its open enrollment process. To say the lead-up to this moment has been “bumpy” would be an understatement. In September, MNsure officials confirmed that one of their employees had inadvertently sent a document containing the private information — names, addresses and social security numbers — of over 1,500 Minnesotans to an insurance broker’s office in Apple Valley. Although we’ve been told the incident has been properly addressed, it does little to strengthen my confidence that the personal information of Minnesotans will be kept secure given the sheer volume and types of data that will be gathered by MNsure.

The MNsure website was unveiled on Oct. 1, a few minutes after 3 p.m. Shortly thereafter, the site crashed for about a half hour before becoming available with limited functions. Users reported widespread delays and errors with creating accounts, verifying identifies and comparing cost plans. One notable delay is the “search by provider” function. The MNsure website asks users if it’s important for them to keep their doctor or clinic. When a user clicks the “yes” option, a message appears saying the function isn’t available. For people who are anxious to find out if they can keep their doctor if they buy a plan through MNsure, this is a big problem. The MNsure site continues to have technical problems that render the site useless at various times throughout the day, and the site remains unavailable eight hours each day and on Sundays.

Minnesota taxpayers have so far footed $150 million for this website, and for more government bureaucracy. Not a single dollar of that money has been spent on actual health care. Meanwhile, premium costs are dramatically higher than promised. The “success” of MNsure has been quite underwhelming. Minnesotans should truly expect better of their government.

Because of concerns about waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer resources, my colleagues and I wrote a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Human Services. The letter asks the commissioner to detail what procedures the department is implementing to verify the eligibility of persons participating in MNsure and to ensure that tax dollars are not being wasted by this massive new bureaucracy. I’m eager to hear the commissioner’s response.

Childcare unionization

A few weeks ago, a federal appeals court issued an injunction relating to the implementation of Minnesota’s childcare unionization law. The court put the law on hold, pending the decision of whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take up a similar lawsuit out of Illinois. We discovered a few days later that the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will be taking up the Illinois-based case in the coming months.

For now, this means that Minnesota’s childcare unionization law will be halted until we hear otherwise from the federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision on the Illinois-based case may come in June of 2014. While the legal process runs its course, I’ll continue to advocate for hardworking moms and dads who simply can’t afford the higher costs and fewer options that unionization would impose on childcare.

I’ve also written a letter to Gov. Dayton relating to the disrespectful comments he’s made about childcare providers who oppose the effort to unionize their in-home small business.

Substance Abuse Task Force

As a member of the bipartisan Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs, I recently attended a forum in Virginia, Minn., to meet with local leaders, law enforcement officials, emergency medical professionals, social services representatives and concerned citizens to discuss the problems facing their community relating to synthetic drug use. It was truly horrifying to hear about real-life instances of synthetic drug abuse. The long-term and often permanent side effects of these drugs are devastating. From aggressive and violent psychosis, to grand mal seizures with the inability to drive a car or hold down a job, physical mutilation, lack of ability to care for children, the uncompensated costs to ambulance services and hospitals — we must find a way to make these synthetic drugs unavailable.

I’m working with legislators in a bipartisan way to examine drug abuse issues throughout Minnesota and plan to work with the committee to recommend policies to combat the spread of the sale of synthetic drugs across the state for the 2014 legislative session.

Kathy Lohmer, (R-Stillwater) represents District 39B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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