Minnesotans who buy health insurance on their own will get their first hints Friday about premiums for 2019 with the scheduled release of data on the rates being requested by carriers.
The information from regulators is expected even as new questions are brewing at the federal level about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health law that started fundamentally reshaping the individual market in 2014.
Last week, the Trump administration said it would no longer defend key parts of the ACA in an ongoing legal challenge to the law. Yet on Thursday, officials with MNsure — the health insurance exchange created by Minnesota as part of the health law — advised consumers to look at the rate requests being released Friday and see how much they could save via ACA tax credits that are available through the exchange
“We don’t want Minnesotans to leave money on the table” said Nate Clark, the acting chief executive of MNsure, in a statement.
The individual market primarily serves people under age 65 who are self-employed or don’t receive coverage from their employer, a group that included this spring about 162,000 people in Minnesota. The market has seen big premium jumps under the ACA, which brought sweeping changes beginning in 2014 including tax credits that shield many from higher prices.
The state Commerce Department is scheduled to release Friday rate requests from carriers that signal the beginning of a regulatory review process. Final rates are expected by Oct. 2, followed by open enrollment in November.
In a filing last week, the Justice Department said it agreed with a legal challenge from several states to the ACA, including the law’s requirement that people have health insurance and provisions that guarantee access to coverage despite pre-existing medical conditions. The court case is ongoing.
Minnesota insurers on Thursday issued a statement of reassurance to Minnesota consumers, noting that the state has its own law requiring that health plans not deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
“The ability to get a policy even if you have an illness and federal help paying premiums each month won’t change,” said Eileen Smith, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, in a statement Thursday. “Insurance experts from the health insurers and commerce department are working together from now until October to get everything ready for open enrollment this fall.”
About 270,000 people were buying coverage in the market in March 2016, but the tally fell by 80,000 people, or roughly 30 percent, to 190,000 as of March 2017, according to the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, which is a trade group. The council said the rate of decline in 2018 slowed to a decrease of about 28,000 people, or about 15 percent, from the previous year.
Premiums spiked for 2017, but rates in many cases held steady or declined for 2018 due in part to $271 million in state money for a reinsurance program. The reinsurance program will continue next year.