Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson has tried to up the ante in making MNsure — and the loss of its most popular insurer — a campaign issue. He called for the state auditor to expand its current investigation into MNsure operations to include whether the Dayton administration pressured PreferredOne to health care rates that were unsustainably low.
Johnson suggested but offered no proof that the Department of Commerce, charged with approving all insurance rates for the state, may have allowed PreferredOne to participate in MNsure without the capacity to sustain the low rates that attracted 60 percent of the MNSure market, or about 30,000 families and individuals.
“The Commerce Department’s role is to make sure that the rates are actuarially sound,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t appear that they were.”
When asked whether politics influenced the Commerce Department, he replied, “I think anything could have happened. There can always be political motives in politics.”
The response from the Dayton campaign was terse. “Commissioner Johnson’s accusations that the Governor engaged in illegal activity are unfounded and untrue,” said campaign spokesman Jeremy Drucker. “We will not dignify Commissioner Johnson’s smear attempt with any response.”
Johnson said that Dayton’s failure to respond to concerns about MNSure prompted the call for further involvement of the legislative auditor. He dodged a question of whether the MNSure issue would be pivotal in the campaign’s outcome. But, he said, “Their health insurance and how much they pay for it is a pretty personal thing to most people.”